"“Kids will be given a target. When we go to propagate his work, we are supposed to say that he is the king of 14 kingdoms, has 2,000 centres and we should get 3 lakh to 8 crores or get land from them (people).”" - Janardhan’s third daughter to News18 Tamil Nadu
A 15-year-old girl has alleged that she was illegally confined, verbally abused and tortured inside the self-styled 'godman' Nithyananda’s ashram in Ahmedabad, in an interview to News18 Tamil Nadu.
Following a complaint by Bengaluru-based Janardhan Sharma, the Gujarat police, on 20 November, rescued two of Sharma's children and two other minors from a flat in the city. They registered an FIR against Nithyananda and arrested two of his followers, Sadhvi Pran Priyananda and Priyatatva Riddhi Kiran.
Sharma and his wife allege that Nithyananda and his followers had kidnapped their four children. Their older children, Ma Nithyananditha (Nanditha) and Ma Nithya Tattvapriya Ananda (Lopamudra), who are not minors, are still missing.
Recounting her experience at the ashram, the 15-year-old girl told News 18 Tamil Nadu that in May 2013, when she and her three siblings joined the gurukul, they were in absolute awe of the place. They learnt the vedas, upanishads, and mallakhamba.
Then, in 2014-2015, 'Swamiji' apparently taught the children 'power manifestations' based on the power of the third eye.
“I used to like Swamiji so much. I had huge respect for him. I’ve come on different shows in 2016 and talked about Swamiji and met a lot of people and shared his healing ideas,” she told the media channel.
However, she said she began noticing a lot of corruption in the last one-and-a-half years.
‘Would Wake Us Up in the Middle of the Night to Make Videos’
The minor girl alleged that the kids in the ashram would be woken up in the middle of the night and made to wear heavy makeup and jewellery to make videos. “If we didn’t agree, we would be told that we are abusing Swamiji, not following Hinduism,” she told the media channel.
She added that when the kids went to meet people to spread Swamiji’s message, they were given specific targets for money or land to solicit as donations. She said many people had donated ‘crores of rupees and 100 -700 acres of land’, and that she herself had convinced many to donate.
She added that things became more intense when children were not sent home to their parents even during Diwali or Holi holidays.
Confinement a Way to 'Repent'
When she began noticing that the gurukul was moving away from spirituality, she said she began asking questions, which in turn upset the administrators of the ashram.
“Then the head of campus, Pranapriya, scared us by saying us that if we leave gurukul, then it means we are doing ‘guru droham’ (cheating the guru), that we are abusing Swamiji, that our lives will be destroyed. She told us we will be depressed if we leave and will not be able to live outside,” she told News 18 Tamil Nadu.
She then said she was subjected to ‘a spiritual form of repentance’ wherein she was locked up in a room for two months without being given a phone to contact anyone.
‘Swamiji Was Aware of Everything’
The minor also said that Nithyanada was always aware of everything going on in the ashram.
She talked about how kids as young as seven were made to sit up for hours to build a positive image of Swamiji on social media.
She told News18 Tamil Nadu that children were made to sit up for three to four weeks with hardly any sleep, with irregular meals, and were told to create at least 10,000 social media accounts and drive engagement for his posts.
“There was no transformation... it was just torture,” she told the media channel.
She then said that it has been months since she has seen her older sisters. She said she was informed that they are out of the country. They reportedly posted a number of videos on Facebook claiming that they were being harassed by their parents, and that they do not intend to return.
The eldest daughter, who claims to be in Trinidad and Tobago, said that her father had started blackmailing the ashram after it allegedly became known that he had been 'embezzling funds' from it.
(With inputs from News 18 Tamil Nadu)
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