There is no clear indication where rape accused self-styled godman Nithyananda is, with reports suggesting that he may currently not be in the country and may have left India via Nepal.
Nithyananda has been booked for child abuse and kidnapping by the Gujarat police after three minor children (a boy and two girls) were rescued from his ashram in the outskirts of Ahmedabad. This is the second case filed against him, in addition to the rape case that was filed against him in 2010.
Nithyananda’s passport was impounded in 2011 when the rape case was filed against him. However, in 2011, he had asked for his passport to travel to Mansarovar and other places to hold meditation and yoga camps and at the time, bail conditions were diluted and he was handed over his passport.
According to reports, he has not been spotted at any of his ashrams since 2018 and there is speculation that he may have escaped from Nepal to a country abroad.
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. According to whistleblowers, it is believed that from Nepal, he may have left for Ecuador, a country which does not have an extradition treaty with India. Although he has been making appearances on his YouTube channel, his current location is not clear. Sources in the Karnataka CID had earlier told TNM that Nithyananda had not left the country using any airport or sea port in India.
In 2010, when the sex tape featuring Nithyananda was released, then too, he had gone absconding but was later traced to Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, leading to speculation that he may even still be in India now. When the Karnataka Criminal Investigation Department began probing the alleged criminal activities at the Bidadi ashram in 2010, the former head of Nithyananda’s ashram in Malaysia had given a statement alleging that her son had tried to kill himself due to torture he suffered at the hands of Nithyananda.
The attempted suicide of a youth in Nithyanada’s Bidadi ashram
This is not the first time that Nithyananda ashram has been accused of abusing children.
In 2008, a minor boy was rushed to BGS Hospital in Kengeri by Nithyananda’s followers after he began vomiting. The doctors informed them that the boy had tried to kill himself. In her statement to the CID, Ma Nirantara, the boy’s mother, had said that Nithyananda and his followers Sadananada, Gyananada, Pranananda and Amta Prabha had allegedly tried to mislead the police about the attempted suicide.
Nithyananda’s followers, who were at the Bidadi ashram allegedly told Ma Nirantara that her son was admitted to the hospital due to “wheezing problems”. However, when her husband spoke to the doctors, they learnt that her son had tried to kill himself.
Ma Niranata told TNM that Nithyananda and his followers allegedly tried to coerce her into giving a false statement to the police. She says that Nithyananda used to beat her son with a stick and humiliate him in front of other people in the ashram, which led her son to take the drastic step. “They wanted me to tell the police that he took the step because he was stressed about his studies. I did not give a separate complaint back then because it requires resources to fight the case and I didn't have that in me back then. But I did give my statement to the police when the scandal broke out in 2010,” she says.
Nirantara says that the ordeal has taken a toll on her personal life and that she struggled to get back to a normal life. “It was after fighting with our family that I joined the ashram. My family did tell me to pursue religion on the side, but it was my adamant nature and faith that made me join. When I finally came out of the ashram, the repercussions were bad. Today we are alone without friends or family to even lean back on. There are still a lot of children there in the ashram, undergoing difficulties. If the current issues help to rescue those kids, I would be really happy,” she said.
The case is currently under trial and Ma Nirantara has not been summoned by the court to give her testimony yet.
MEA denies knowledge of Nithyananda’s whereabouts
On Thursday, the Ministry of External Affairs stated that it is not aware of where Nithyananda currently is. The Ministry added that it had not received any information from the Gujarat police or from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) regarding him. Nithyananda has been booked by the Gujarat police after three minor children (a boy and two girls) were rescued from Nithyananda's Hirapur Ashram in the outskirts of Ahmedabad and united them with their parents.
“We have not received any formal information, neither from the Gujarat police nor from the MHA. Also, for extradition request, we need to know the location and the nationality details of the person. We do not have such information about him yet,” the MEA said.