Religion

Godman Nithyananda Flees Country After Two Disciples Held for 'Kidnapping'

The Gujarat police confirmed that just a day after the godman was named in an FIR, he has left the country.

New Delhi: Godman Nithyananda has fled the country, the Gujarat police said, just a day after he was booked in a criminal case related to his ashram in Ahmedabad. Police said they were working to gather “concrete evidence” against him after taking two of his disciples in remand.

An FIR was registered on Wednesday against the controversial guru on charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers to run his ashram, Yogini Sarvagyapeetham. He is also a rape accused, and in June 2018, a Karnataka special court framed charges against him.

Superintendent of police Ahmedabad (rural) R.V. Asari said Nithyananda has fled abroad, and if required, the Gujarat police will seek his custody through the proper channel. “If required, we will go through proper channel to seek his custody from abroad. We will definitely arrest him if he comes back to India,” Asari said.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of External Affairs said it did not have any information or request for Nithyananda’s extradition. Unconfirmed reports said he is in Trinidad and Tobago.

“We have no formal information, neither from the Gujarat police nor the Home Ministry. Also, for any extradition request, we need the location and nationality details of the person. We don’t have such information about him yet,” said the foreign ministry spokesperson.

Two of his disciples, Pranpriya and Priyatatva, arrested on Tuesday on kidnapping, illegal confinement and assault, among other charges, were sent to five days police remand by a rural court here on Wednesday evening and are being questioned by the police, deputy SP (Ahmedabad rural), K.T. Kamariya said.

He said the police are also investigating the case of a woman missing from Nithyananda’s ashram here after a complaint was registered by her father Janardhana Sharma at the Vivekanand police station.

“We have taken two disciples in remand. If we get concrete evidence against Nithyananda during the current investigation, then we will proceed against him. He has been mentioned as an accused in the FIR, but we still need concrete evidence to proceed against him, Kamariya said.

Nithyananda’s ashram is accused of illegally confining two children, aged 9 and 10, enrolled. They told police they were tortured, made to work and kept in illegal confinement at a flat in the city for over ten days. Similar allegations were made by two other children rescued from the ashram in a complaint filed by their parents.

According to reports, police also arrested the principal of the Delhi Public School near Ahmedabad on Thursday. Nithyananda’s ashram was set up on land leased by the school. Police said Hitesh Puri, the principal, violated government norms while leasing out land for the ashram. He was later released on bail.

“School authorities failed to produce documents to informing the police about leasing out the land,” said Kamaria.

According to PTI, the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) on Thursday sought a report from the Gujarat Education department explaining how the school’s land was leased out to Nithyanand’s ashram in Ahmedabad without its permission. The DPS is affiliated to the CBSE.

Gujarat home minister Pradipsinh Jadeja told reporters that nobody involved in the case will be spared. He said the DGP has directed the SP concerned to form a team to investigate the matter in detail.

The accused have been booked under various sections of the IPC, including kidnapping, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt and sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter. They have also been booked under Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, police said.

The Gujarat high court had on Wednesday 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.

(With PTI inputs)