Swami Nithyananda is a self-styled godman who runs a number of ashrams across the country and heads the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam, a religious organisation which he founded.
According to a video available on his website, Nithyananda attained ‘enlightenment’ at the age of 12. The video introduces him as a spiritual leader of Hinduism and claims that he runs centres in 47 countries.
Nithyananda has been booked after a couple from Tamil Nadu moved the Gujarat High Court, alleging their children were being held in illegal confinement at his ashram in Ahmedabad. The police booked Nithyananda on charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers.
Police on Thursday said that he has fled the country and that the Gujarat police would seek his custody through proper channels if required.
This is not the first time that Nithyananda has landed into a controversy. In 2010, a video of Nithyananda had surfaced on local news channels wherein he was purportedly shown engaging in sexual acts with a Tamil actress. He had defended himself at the time saying he was merely ‘practising the shavasana’ and that he was impotent.
A case was filed against him in Bangalore. He was finally arrested from Himachal Pradesh’s Solan district on April 21, 2010. Nithyananda was, however, let off on bail. Two years later, though, he landed again in soup when a US-based woman claimed that Nithyananda had abused her for five years.
On Monday, an FIR was lodged against Nithyananda and two of his followers at an Ahmedabad-based ashram for allegedly abducting, confining and torturing two minors and a 19-year-old woman.
Following this, the Gujarat High Court had issued notices to Nithyananda and the state government on a habeas corpus petition filed by the father of the women. Police later arrested two managers of the ashram and “freed” the two minor girls from its premises.