Self-styled godman Nithyananda, who is currently on the run from Indian authorities, has a history of alleged crimes against women and children. Believed to be hiding in Belize, TNM had recently reportedly reported that Nithyananda, who is wanted in two Indian states for various crimes, appears to be running a bank account from the island nation of Vanuatu. The godman is accused of rape, torture and child abuse by many survivors. While the law is yet to catch up with a godman, here is a look back at his alleged atrocities over the years:
In 2010, a young engineer who had returned to India from the United States, alleged that Nithyananda had raped her over a period of five years under the guise of spiritual initiation. The woman had been a disciple of the controversial guru between 2004 and 2009. She along with another ashramite named Lenin also alleged that the famously-celibate Nithyananda had forced close confidantes to backdate and sign a sex contract. The woman told the Karnataka High Court that other women too were abused but had been silenced. It was based on her complaint that the Supreme Court ordered the rape-accused godman to undergo a potency test when he claimed he had been impotent. This was followed by a vicious hate campaign against the survivor who was accused of having sexually transmitted diseases.
Sangeetha Arjunan, another young woman, from Tamil Nadu, had died in Nithyananda’s ashram just weeks after she had been accused by fellow disciples of stealing pen drives from the godman’s ashram in Bidadi, Karnataka. Sangeetha had reportedly wanted to return from the ashram after serving there for a few years but was not allowed to do so. After her sudden death, Sangeetha’s family countered the local doctors’ claims that she had suffered a cardiac arrest; the family believes that the 24-year-old was tortured based on the swelling and bleeding visible on parts of her dead body. Sangeetha’s mother, is fighting a lone legal battle and has recently written to Home Minister Amit Shah, seeking justice for her daughter.
Child abuse charges
In 2019, police in rural Ahmedabad raided an ashram of the godman in Gujarat and freed three minor children (a boy and two girls) who had been abused at Nithyananda's ashram in Hirapur. In November, the police arrested two managing disciples for having abused children. In addition to being verbally abused, the children said that they had been beaten and forced to do child labour.
A complaint was made by the Gujarat State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights, prompting a manhunt for the godman. However, the self-styled godman has been absconding since the child abuse charges became public knowledge with charges of rape against him and allegations of child abuse against his ashram already pending. The godman, however, continues to make regular appearances in videos on his social media accounts.