A first information report (FIR) was registered against self-styled godman, Swami Nithyananda, by Ahmedabad rural police on charges of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children. However, the controversial ‘guru’ has already fled the country, a report in the Times of India, citing Gujarat Police sources said, adding that they would seek his custody through the “proper channel.”
The FIR was filed following a complaint by Bengaluru-based Janardan Sharma who came looking for his four children to Ahmedabad, prompting a raid on the ashram of the self-proclaimed godman that runs on the premises of Delhi Public School at Hirapur on the outskirts of the city.
Sharma in his statement shared that his four children were enrolled with the Nithayanda Dhyanpeetham in Bengaluru in 2013 where he had hoped that his children would have better and spiritual upliftment but later, he found that the children were shifted to Yogini Sarvagyapeetham in Ahmedabad.
On November 1, Sharma and his wife asked the authorities of the ashram to let them meet their children but were denied permission. Following which Sharma filed a complaint with the Vivekandanagar police station of Ahmedabad rural.
On November 16, after Sharma approached the Gujarat State Commission for Protection of Child Rights, the police raided the ashram and rescued two of his children – a 13-year-old boy and a 12-year-old girl, while his elder daughters Nanditha, aged 18, and Lopamudra, aged 21, were not found.
However, on November 17, Nanditha contacted the Ahmedabad police via Skype and told them she had gone “outside” while Lopamudra posted a video on Facebook informing the police that she was in Trinidad of her own accord.
Following this, Sharma moved the High Court in Gujarat and filed a habeas corpus application claiming that his daughters, Nanditha and Lopamudra, were in forced custody and that his minor children in the ashram were forced to do labour work.
On the first hearing of the matter on November 20, the court issued notices to the respondents, including the Gujarat government, Director General of Police, police officers concerned, CWC Chairman and Swami Nithyananda and Maa Pranpriya.
On the same day, Ahmedabad police arrested Maa Pranpriya and Maa Priyatattva, the managers and care takers of the Yogini Sarvajnapeetham ashram and booked them under Sections 364, 344, 324, 504, 506 (2) for abducting, confining, causing hurt, intentionally insulting and criminally intimidating of the IPC along with sections of Child Labour (prohibition and regulation) Act. The duo has been sent to judicial remand of five days.
“After a special investigation team (SIT) reached the premises of the ashram, statements of the accused and children living there were recorded. Two of the girls told they want to leave the ashram. The two accused Pranpriya and Tattvapriya have been arrested and police has received five-day remand,” RV Asari, Superintendent of Police, Ahmedabad Rural told the media.
“The two girls, both minors, belong to a family from Delhi who have been asked to take their children home. The children in their statement to Child Welfare Committee (CWC) shared that they were forced to get up at 3 a.m to do ashram chores and were thrashed if they denied to do so,” said KT Kamariya, Deputy Superintendent of Police, who has been investigating the case.
Noticeably, Manjula Puja Shroff, CEO of DPS East, which has granted a five-year lease to the ashram to operate from its premises, has been elusive to both police and media. Shroff, whose organisation Calorx Foundation runs several schools in the state, is said to be a known follower of Swami Nithyananda.
Following the non-cooperation of the management of DPS East in the investigation of the case, District Rural Education Officer has slapped a notice on them asking them to respond within a week.
RR Vyas, DEO (Rural) stated that his team had visited the school to seek information about the contract between DPS East and Swami Nithayanda.
“There are 24 students of the ashram enrolled in the school. The school management does not have papers supporting admission of these students. Besides the management gave us lease agreement and not the land papers which is necessary to find out if the ashram was running on the school land illegally,” Vyas told the media.
Meanwhile, Ahmedabad police is investigating the allegations whether ashram residents were forced into doing ashram chores and promotional activities, as alleged by Sharma in the habeas corpus application.
Ahmedabad police is also is in talks with the Tamil Nadu and Karnataka police to find out the litany of the other cases filed against Nithyananda.