The district authorities in rural Ahmedabad on Monday made the devotees vacate rape accused self-styled godman Nithyananda’s ashram as part of the crackdown against the controversial religious preacher. Nithyananda is wanted by Gujarat Police for child abuse and other criminal charges like abduction and kidnap.
Visuals from the scene showed all of them leaving the ashram as police and district administration officials took over the property and seized laptop, mobiles and other electronic devices.
This comes a day after the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) cancelled the affiliation granted to the Delhi Public School in greater Ahmedabad. The affiliation was cancelled after it was established that the Delhi Public School in rural Ahmedabad (eastern outskirts) allowed Nithyananda’s ashram to function within its premises through a “forged’ NOC (No Objection Certificate).
PTI quoted the CBSE note as saying, “The provisional /general affiliation upto senior secondary level granted to the Delhi Public School, Hirapur, Taluka Daskroi, Ahmedabad, stands withdrawn with immediate effect."
The Board, however, allowed students of classes 10 and 12 to appear for the Board's examination in the year 2020, and shifting of students of classes 9 and 11 to nearby CBSE-affiliated schools.
The state Education Department was also earlier asked to conduct the inquiry expeditiously and convey the outcome of the report and status of the NOC issued by the state department to the school for seeking CBSE affiliation.
According to sources, police have secured video footage from the seized devices which show the physical assault and harassment meted out to the minor children living there.
Monday’s incidents come as part of a crackdown by Gujarat Police against Nithyananda and his ashram, after a Bengaluru man approached the Gujarat State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) in November and also the Gujarat High Court.
The complainant Janardhana Sharma, is a former disciple of Nithyananda, who was once closely associated with him and had alleged that his children were brainwashed and tortured at the ashram. While his two younger daughters returned to him following police action, his two elder daughters refused to leave Nithyananda’s organisation.
However, the Gujarat High Court on November 26, had ordered the police to track the two women who were seemingly in Trinidad and were voluntarily part of his organisation. The HC also advised the police to consult the Interpol, Ministry of External Affairs, and other relevant authorities to trace the two elder daughters.
Gujarat Police since then, had booked Nithyananda and arrested two of his aides under Sections 365 (abduction), Section 344 (wrongful confinement), 323 (voluntarily causing hurt), 504 (intentional insult to provoke breach of peace) and 506 (criminal intimidation) of the Indian Penal Code along with sections of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act. The suspects, Pranapriya and Tatavapriya, continue to remain in jail as a local court denied bail to them on Monday.
More recently, the Karnataka CID and Gujarat Police had carried out a joint raid at his ashram in Bidadi near Bengaluru.
Speaking to a TV channel, Janardhana Sharma said, “They are all running away because of all the evidence which was seized by the police, and this is only the beginning. The police have seized from the ashram several mobiles, laptops and tablets in which many photos and videos can be found of all the beating and harassment done to the kids there. All this evidence must be investigated and further action should be taken against such persons. It was being run neither as a school nor as an ashram.”
Meanwhile, Nithyananda remains absconding as he has been avoiding trial in the rape case against him. Ahmedabad (Rural) Superintendent of Police (SP), RV Asari, had earlier told reporters that he has left the country.
According to whistleblowers, he is currently in Ecuador after he made his way out of the country through Nepal, which allows Indians to travel there without passports.
A copy of Nithyananda’s passport accessed by TNM shows it was due to expire in September 2018 and was not renewed due to the rape charges. However, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that it is not aware where Nithyananda currently is.