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TV footage sets angry mob on Nithyananda ashram

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M.T. Shivakumar

Bidadi ashram attacked following sting operation

Bangalore:An angry mob on Wednesday attacked the ashram of Swami Nithyananda of the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam near Bidadi on the city's outskirts after television channels telecast what they said was footage of the godman in a compromising position with a Tamil actress whose identity is still in dispute.

The whereabouts of the Swamiji, who has a considerable following in both Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, are not known.

The video, a sting operation by a Tamil channel, hit the airwaves on Tuesday night and was picked up by other channels.

When day broke, a mob attacked the entrance of the ashram, pelting stones and pulling down banners and hoardings of the Swamiji, setting them ablaze. They tore the godman's portraits and damaged the decorative lamps at the ashram's gates, which were closed.

The Ramanagara district police rushed to the spot and dispersed the mob.

Arson suspected

Amidst police security, some huts on the ashram property were gutted in a mysterious fire. The angry mob alleged arson by the godman's followers to destroy evidence. Some police officials also suspect likewise.

“The fire broke out around 4.30 p.m. A police force of at least 150 personnel was deputed to the ashram and senior officials, including Ramanagara District Superintendent S.B. Bisanahalli, were around. Entry was strictly prohibited and barring the sevakas (volunteers) there were no strangers inside the ashram. It was in the middle of this that the fire broke out,” said an officer of the Ramanagara district police.

Mr. Bisanahalli declined to comment.

Panic after mob anger

There was panic in the ashram following the mob anger. The sevakas said at least 80 persons attempted to muscle their way in on Wednesday morning.

“We ran helter-skelter when the miscreants attacked the ashram. They also attempted to assault us,” an ashram spokesperson, who refused to give his name, told The Hindu.

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents from nearby villages converged on the ashram. Clearly incensed by the TV footage, they shouted slogans against the Swamiji. It is alleged that the Swamiji has violated several rules while constructing the ashram.

Officials from the Forest, Police, Fire, Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Ltd. (KPTCL) and other departments visited the ashram. Officials of the Ramanagara tahsildar's office also visited the ashram to check whether he had encroached on government land.

‘Defamatory'

The Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam's website, meanwhile, termed the video “defamatory”, claiming that it is “a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumour”. It said the organisation was contemplating legal recourse.

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