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Godman linked to sex scandal; ashrams ransacked

Bangalore/Chennai, March 3 (IANS) Within hours of news channels telecasting video footage of a self-styled godman Paramhamsa Nityananda allegedly indulging in sexual acts with two women, enraged mobs ransacked his ashrams in Tamil Nadu and Karnataka.

A mob of infuriated men attacked the sprawling 29-acre ashram in Bidadi in Karnataka, smashing the 32-year-old godman’s portraits, banners, billboards and the reception office. Police deployed additional forces to protect the devotees, including about 100 foreigners staying within the complex.

‘We have deployed two platoons of the state reserve police numbering about 100 men to guard the Nityananda Mission and protect the devotees, as the people from the town wanted to lay a siege,’ Ramanagara district police superintendent S.B. Bhisanhalli told IANS.

Bidadi is about 30 km from Bangalore.

The sensational video footage showed the godman, who originally hails from neighbouring Tamil Nadu, fondling and kissing the women and in a compromising position with them in turns.

While the video clipping shows that the man in action is Nithyananda, one of the women is allegedly a Tamil actress who has played leading role in many films and TV serials.

In Tamil Nadu, members of outfits like Periyar Dravida Kazhagham, VCK and Hindu Makkal Katchi held protests in different places and demanded Nithyananda’s arrest.

Nithyananda’s banners were burnt and many centres of his shram Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam in the state and in Pudducherry were ransacked and damaged by protesters.

While the whereabouts of Nithyananda is not known, a message posted on the ashram’s website terms the video footage aired by the news channel as a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumour and added that legal course of action is being worked out.

The Nithayananda Mission is part of a worldwide movement for meditation and peace. It claims to have about 1,000 branches across 33 countries and about two million followers the world over.

‘The goal of Paramahamsa Nithyananda’s advent on planet earth is to spread the inner science of enlightenment by delivering physical health, mental wellness and spiritual awakening to all beings irrespective of their race, gender or nationality,’ a mission spokesman told reporters when accosted to know the whereabouts of the godman and about the expose.

‘The video footage shown by news channels was not shot here. It must have been taken in Tamil Nadu or elsewhere. Our priority is to first maintain law and order and prevent the situation going out of control,’ Bhisanhalli said.

Denying knowledge of the godman’s sexual acts and his misconduct, the mission spokesman alleged that the video footage was fabricated and aired to defame their ‘guru’ as non-believers were jealous of his growing popularity.

‘We feel a deep-rooted conspiracy behind the so-called expose. It is for the authorities to investigate the video footage to ascertain the truth. We know nothing about the incident,’ the spokesman said but declined to be named.

Lamenting that the sleaze had hurt the feelings of devotees, the spokesman said enemies of the mission hatched a conspiracy to malign and blackmail the pontiff for vested interests.

‘Our guru’s mission is to enlighten the people through yoga and meditation. His character is above suspicion,’ the spokesman asserted.

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