Tension prevailed at the Nithyananda ashram, off Bidadi, in Ramanagaram district for the second day on Friday when activists of some Kannada organisations and ashram devotees clashed for over three hours.
The police resorted to lathi charge to disperse the warring groups. The Bidadi police arrested 20 activists of Kannada organisations. Ten devotees have also been taken into custody and their role in the clash and Thursday's unruly incidents is being probed, Ramanagaram Superintendent of Police Anupam Agarwal told The Hindu.
Activists of Kannada organisations created a ruckus at the ashram while protesting against Thursday's alleged attack on visual media journalists during a press conference addressed by Nithyananda, the police said.
During the press conference, Nithyananda is said to have instructed his supporters to “throw out” Ajith S. Hanumakkanavar, a reporter from a private Kannada news channel who posed questions about the reported summons issued by a court in the U.S. against the self-styled godman. The “summons” is said to have been issued following a complaint by an NRI, Vinay Bharadwaj.
After the press conference ended abruptly, the devotees and some journalists had heated arguments and they even exchanged blows. Later, around 6.30 p.m., activists of the Nava Karnataka Nirmana Vedike stormed the ashram to protest against the alleged attack on the media.
Mr. Hanumakkanavar has lodged a complaint of assault against Nithyananda and his devotees in the Bidadi police station. Nitya Achalananda, an ashram devote, too has filed a police complaint stating that Mr. Hanumakkanavar and his colleagues had assaulted and threatened her of dire consequence.
Similarly, devotees have filed a complaint that ashram administrator Atmaprabhananda suffered injuries after he was hit on the head with stones by vedike activists, who had come to the ashram with news channel crew late on Thursday evening. The ashram, in its website, has alleged that the attack was sponsored by the television channel.
The vedike has lodged a counter complaint that the devotees assaulted its activists when they went to the ashram to protest against the alleged attack on journalists.
Based on the complaints and counter complaints, the Bidadi police registered two first information reports (FIRs) on Thursday — one against Nithyananda and others, and another against Mr. Hanumakkanavar.
Meanwhile, the police have heightened security around the ashram by deploying additional forces.
Ramanagaram Deputy Commissioner Srirama Reddy is said to have sought a report on the episode from the Superintendent of Police.