Friday, April 23, 2010

Swami Nityananda back home after 'vanvas'

The self-styled godman Swami Nityananda, who elevated himself as Paramahamsa Nithyananda, is finally back home after his vanvas, thanks to Bangalore Police, who arrested him on Wednesday from his hideout in Mamlig village near Arki town in Solan District of Himachal Pradesh, about 50 km from Shimla.

Nityananda and his close aide and the head of his operations in the United States, Gopal Sheelum Reddy alias Nitya Bhaktananda were flown in to Bangalore and were whisked away to Ramanagaram Sessions court, the police told the media.

He was arrested along with his four associates, after he had been absconding for over a month after a purported video footage of him in a compromising position with the Tamil actress Ranjitha and alleged sexual relations with some other women and men. The arrests were made by a joint team of Karnataka Crime Investigation Department and Himachal Pradesh Police.

Swami Nityananda, alias Paramahamsa Nithyananda, according to Assistant superintendent of police, Solan, Ramesh Pathania, was wanted by Karnataka police in two cases under Sections 295A (deliberate and malicious acts intended to outrage religious feelings of any class by insulting its religion or religious beliefs), 376 (punishment for rape), 377 (unnatural sex), 420 (cheating and dishonestly inducing delivery of property), 506 (criminal intimidation) and 120B (criminal conspiracy) of IPC. Nityananda Swami had been on the run since March 23 when the Karnataka High Court rejected his plea for anticipatory bail.

The scandal-hit godman was staying in a rented house for the past one month. Himachal police got a fax from the Karnataka police on April 17 that they had information that Nityananda was hiding in Himachal Pradesh. Subsequently, two Karnataka deputy superintendents of police reached Shimla for investigation.

The police team zeroed in on the accused godman and his associates based on the information provided by a local taxi driver of Himachal Pradesh. Though Nityananda and Nithya Bhaktananda (Gopal Seelam Reddy) rarely moved out, their three other companions used to visit the nearby market to procure items of daily needs.

A Bangalore police official M.S. Hussain said, "Nityananda and Reddy reached Himachal Pradesh from Haridwar and they stayed in the village." The police seized $7,000 and Rs 300,000 in cash from Nityananda, and three laptops, eight mobile phones, three video cameras, and one SIM card procured from Himachal Pradesh were also recovered from them. The house where Nityananda was staying since March 27 belonged to a Delhi resident, who would be questioned soon, the police said.

Meanwhile, a CID team conducted a search of the Ashram of Nithyananda Swamiji at Bidadi, near Bangalore on 20 April, 2010, and seized important documents including computer hard disks, Director General, CID, Dr D V Guru Prasad said.

After the scandalous videos of Nityananda were aired on TV channels on March 3, the godman’s former driver Lenin Karuppan filed a complaint with the Chennai police commissioner. Another case was registered at Coimbatore by Vishwanath for hurting the religious sentiments of Hindus. In Karnataka, the police registered the cases based on these two complaints and later they handed over the case to the CID, after which the CID sleuths started getting complaints from overseas through e-mails.

According to reports, Nithyananda is afraid of facing prosecution in the US following a case lodged by a US citizen Douglas Mckellor before the California State Attorney-General Jerry Brown, accusing the Swami of fraud, financial irregularities and physical abuse of devotees in USA. McKellor, a former devotee, also known as Swami Nithya Prabha, is a resident of San Jose in California and came in contact with Nityananda in 2007, and later became the head of the California branch of Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam.

Douglas attended Nithyananda's enlightenment program held at Los Angeles ashram, where he said he paid Nithyananda a fee of $400,000 for the workshop and the enlightenment certificate. Nithyananda sexually exploited his American devotees, The American said in his complaint.

Nithyananda’s Life Bliss Foundation in the US has shut down after the scandal broke out. So, is his Vedic Temple in Los Angelese that is shut down to devotees! Lenin Karuppan, an insider who had recorded the sex tapes, and who had first filed a complaint with the Chennai Police Commissioner, has alleged that several foreign devotees have been duped by Nithyananda.

Also, a court in Sriperumbudur in Tamil Nadu had issued a non-bailable warrant against him on Monday with the direction to the police to produce him before the court on May 20.

Swami Nityananda has rejected sex scandal allegations against him, and his lawyers said they are ready for a legal battle.

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