Other States

Swamy Nithyananda’s two disciples arrested in Ahmedabad ashram


The Gujarat police on November 20 arrested two disciples of Swamy Nithyananda in connection with the alleged kidnap and wrongful confinement of children at Nithyanand Ashram in Ahmedabad.

The police have also booked Swamy Nithyananda, who is said to be out of the country, on the charge of kidnap, illegal confinement and use of children for collecting donations from followers to run the ashram.

The arrested disciples are Sadhvi Pranpriyanand and Priyatatva Riddhi Kiran, both managers of the ashram, which has been in the centre of a controversy since a Bengaluru based couple filed a complaint against it for allegedly confining their minor daughters.

‘Used as child labourers’

The duo have been arrested for allegedly kidnapping at least four children, keeping them in illegal confinement in a flat and using them as child labourers to promote activities of the ashram to collect donations.

The police booked Nithyananda after recording statements of the four children who were rescued from the flat and the ashram, “Yogini Sarvagyapeetham.”

Ahmedabsd (Rural) Superintendent of Police (SP) RV Asari said, “We have named Nithyanand also in the FIR lodged against the ashram and those operating it.” 

Deputy SP K.T. Kamaria, who is probing the case, said: “We have arrested two disciples of Swami Nithyananda after two children in the age group of 9 and 10 enrolled in the ashram told us that they were tortured and made to work as child labour and kept in an illegal confinement at a flat in the city for over 10 days.”

The accused persons have been booked under sections 365 (kidnap or abduction with the intent of secretly and wrongfully confining a person), 344 (wrongful confinement for 10 or more days), 323 (voluntarily cause hurt), 504 (intentional insult with the intent to provoke breach of peace), and 502 (sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter) of the Indian Penal Code (IPC).

Additionally, they have also been booked under section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986, Mr. Kamaria said. “The two children [rescued from the flat] have been handed over to the child welfare committee, which is questioning them and trying to locate their parents”.

According to Mr. Kamaria, the rescued children told the police that they were forced to take part in a religious ritual and harassed by the ashram managers. “They were being made to work for the ashram by force to collect donations from followers by sharing and uploading various ritual materials.”

The Bengaluru-based parents of two minor sisters had accused the ashram administration of not letting them meet their wards, who were clandestinely shifted from Karnataka to Gujarat without informing them.

The sisters were subsequently rescued and handed over to the parents by the Gujarat police, who also lodged an FIR against the ashram administration and its managers based on the Sharma family’s complaint.

Petition filed in court

Janardana Sharma filed a petition in the Gujarat High Court on Monday, claiming that his daughters were “abducted and kept in illegal confinement for more than two weeks and were deprived of sleep”. He also sought a direction to the authorities to produce his two elder daughters, Lopamudra Sharma (21) and Nandita Sharma (18) before the court as stated in his habeas corpus petition.

Mr. Sharma alleged in his petition that “Yogini Sarvagyapeetham” authorities were not letting him meet his two elder daughters.

The police have also registered a missing person case about Nandita even though she had conveyed to the police via video messages that she wanted to stay back in the ashram and will produce herself before the court when required.

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Printable version | Feb 28, 2021 10:11:44 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/two-women-managers-of-nithyanand-ashram-arrested/article30026299.ece

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