Bengaluru

Mob vents its ire on godman's ashram after seeing TV footage

The huts at Nithyananda Peeta near Bidadi that were set on fire on Wednesday.  

A mob attacked the ashram of Swami Nithyananda of the Nithyananda Dhyanapeetam near Bidadi on the city's outskirts on Wednesday, after 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 video, a sting operation by a Tamil channel, hit the airwaves on Tuesday night and was picked up by other channels.

The whereabouts of the godman, who has a wide following in Karnataka and Tamil Nadu, are not known.

When day broke, a mob attacked the entrance of the ashram, pelted stones, pulled down banners and hoardings of the godman, and set them ablaze. They tore his portraits and damaged the decorative lamps at the gates, which were closed.

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

Arson suspected

Amid police security, some huts on the ashram property were gutted in a mysterious fire. The 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 Ramanagaram 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 fire broke out,” said a police officer.

Mr. Bisanahalli declined to comment.

Fire tenders from Toyota Kirloskar and the Fire Department doused the blaze.

Panic after mob fury

There was panic in the ashram following the mob fury. 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. They damaged our property and also tried to ransack the ashram,” an ashram spokesperson, who refused to give his name, told The Hindu.

Angry locals

Meanwhile, hundreds of residents from nearby villages converged at the ashram. Clearly incensed by the TV footage, they shouted slogans against he godman. One of them said: “We were worshipping the Swami and considered him equivalent to God. He has let us down.”

They urged the authorities to confiscate the ashram.

Meanwhile, it is alleged that the godman has violated several rules while constructing the ashram.

Officials from the Forest, Police, Fire, Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) and other departments visited the ashram. Forest officials said the godman had tiger pelt, sandalwood articles and other forest produce in his ashram.

Officials of the Ramanagaram tahsildar's office also visited the ashram to check if he had encroached on government land.

“Defamatory”

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

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 10:45:55 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/bangalore/Mob-vents-its-ire-on-godmans-ashram-after-seeing-TV-footage/article16475135.ece

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