In yet another controversial development surrounding self-styled godman and rape accused Nithyananda, police in rural Ahmedabad on Wednesday arrested two women ashram managers for allegedly abusing children. The FIR also mentions the name of Nithyananda, other than the two disciples who were arrested- Pranpriya and Priyatattva. This comes after police freed three minor children (a boy and two girls) from his Hirapur Ashram in the outskirts of Ahmedabad city and united them with their parents. The arrest on Wednesday was made based on the statement by the minors.
The FIR, which TNM has accessed, says that the children were subjected to child labour. "They were verbally abused horribly, they were beaten. In order to make sure that the person who gave the complaint does not meet the children, they were kidnapped and illegally locked up at a house in Pushpak city for two weeks. The accused conspired to kidnap and the children were threatened that they will be killed," says the FIR.
The police raid at the ashram and the house was prompted by the Gujarat State Commission for the Protection of Child Rights (GSCPCR) which in turn was approached by a man named Janardhan Sharma. Sharma, a former disciple of Nithyananda, who was once closely associated with him, approached the Gujarat High Court alleging that his children were brainwashed and tortured at the ashram.
He said that he had admitted four of his children in Nithyananda ashram in Bidadi near Bengaluru in 2013, when his eldest daughter was 15 years old. After he had a fallout with Nithyananda, his children were shifted to Gujarat’s Yogini Sarvagya Peetham (run by Nithyananda) earlier this year, without the family's consent. This gurukul functions inside the premises of the Delhi Public School in rural Ahmedabad (eastern outskirts).
While his younger children were returned to him, his two daughters refused to leave the ashram. In fact, the eldest daughter, now, 21 came out with a video alleging that her parents had enabled her sexual abuse by a family friend at home and she would rather stay at the ashram. According to the video, they are currently touring in Trinidad in West Indies.
Police had earlier said that these children were subjected to physical violence inside the ashram. Sharma has however alleged that his daughters were under Nithyananda's influence and were unable to understand that they needed to get away from 'his clutches'.
Though Sharma's daughters refused to come back home, the raids prompted by his complaint resulted in the rescue of three other children. While the children have been moved to a government home, the trio have been booked 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 two are in custody. We are carrying on with our investigation,” Vivekanand Nagar Inspector RB Rana told TNM.
As far as Nithyananda is concerned, incidents like these are not new. A rape case was filed against Nithyananda in 2010 by a disciple. After prolonging the trial for years using various tactics, he has been skipping trial for more than a year now.
In 2014, there was a mysterious death in his Bidadi ashram. Sangeetha Arjunan, a native of Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu died in the ashram premises on December 28, 2014 and the ashram officials claimed she died of a heart attack. Her parents however, have said that Sangeetha did not have any heart condition and that they suspected foul play.