It is not every day that a godman is accused of raping his followers. Strike that. That was probably true back in 2010, when a video that allegedly showed Swami Nithyananda Paramahansa and Tamil actress Ranjitha in a compromising position, was aired on several channels down South.
In 2017, with godmen like Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh lodged behind bars for raping two sadhvis, incidents like these are but way too commonplace to even be surprised at.
It wasn’t quite the situation back in 2010.
Swami Nithyananda and Ranjitha in a grab from the notorious video
In the first week of March 2010, the country woke up to a huge scandal involving a South Indian Swami. The self-styled godman, Nithyananda Paramahansa, who runs the Dhayanapeetham ashram in Bidadi near Bengaluru, and Tamil actress Ranjitha, were splashed all across TV channels in the South, in a video that was promptly disowned by the ones allegedly involved in it. The clip showed Nithyananda and Ranjitha in a compromising position, said the channels that aired the video.
WHO SHOT THE VIDEO?
Nithyananda’s ex-driver Lenin Karuppan owned up to filming his ‘guru’ and Ranjitha clandestinely. Karuppan was a close aide of Nithyananda. A Mid-Day report from July 2010 says that Karuppan apparently confessed to his Swami the reason why he filmed him. Karuppan, who considered himself a dedicated and sincere disciple of Swami Nithyananda, lost faith in his guru after seeing him sleeping around with other women.
DENIAL BY BOTH RANJITHA AND SWAMI NITHYANANDA
Both Ranjitha and Swami Nithyananda went on to vehemently deny their presence in the video. After the video was aired on the channels and went on YouTube and Google, Ranjitha even had notices sent to Google and YouTube, asking them to remove the video.
The statement from Ranjitha’s lawyers read, “Our client dissociates herself from the said video which has caused danger to her life, limb and property.
This was July 2010, a few months after the video was aired.
The law firm representing Ranjitha also denied that the actress gave any media interviews, and added that she had not made any statement before the Bangalore CID, that was questioning Nithyananda back then. Nithyananda was under arrest on various charges back in July 2010.
“The authenticity and originality of the alleged person featuring in the video taken clandestinely has to stand the test of admissibility before being treated as evidence in the Courts of Law,” the statement from Ranjitha’s law firm said.
Ranjitha also held a press conference to announce, “The video is fabricated. I am not the person in it. In fact, at that time, I was in a room that I was sharing with another female devotee in the Dhyanapeetham ashram. I blame myself for this. It has affected my career though some people still have faith in me.”
Self-styled godman Nithyananda has filed a criminal complaint against Sun TV Chief Operating Officer (COO) Hansraj Saxena and eight others for airing what he termed morphed visuals, showing him in a compromising position with an actress in 2010.
In his complaint filed with city police commissionerate, Nithya Atmaprabhananda, Manager of Nithyananda’s Dhyanapeeta Charitable Trust, levelled charges including extortion, criminal intimidation and assault, among others, against Saxena, his aide Ayyappan and Tamil bi-weekly Nakheeran Editor R Gopal, among others.
Atmaprabhananda alleged that they had demanded money to stop airing the video footage purportedly showing Nithyananda and Ranjitha. He also charged that he had been attacked by Aiyappan.
2011: CID INVESTIGATION
In 2011, Ranjitha filed a case at a Bengaluru court, which ordered a CID investigation into the video. The actress continued to frequent Dhayanapeetham ashram after denying that she was part of the video with Nithyananda.
2012: ENTER ARATHI RAO
In 2012, fresh charges of rape and confinement were levelled against Swami Nithyananda and the godman went missing for five days. Nithyananda went into hiding, leaving the Bengaluru police in a lurch, following which, he surrendered in the Ramanagara district court.
In the five days that the Bengaluru police launched a massive manhunt to nab the absconding godman, they stumbled upon a dump of condoms and a stash of ganja from a corner in the compound of his Dhyanapeetham ashram in Bidadi. The ashram was sealed.
It was right after Nithyananda’s disciples went on television to say that they were exploited at the hands of the godman that the then-Chief Minister of Karnataka, DV Sadananda Gowda, announced the arrest of the guru, nicknamed ‘Sex Swami’.
During this time, Arathi Rao, a follower of Nithyananda, gave a detailed account of her five-year experience with the guru. She said that Nithyananda repeatedly raped her. That he threatened her with dire consequences if she were to reveal his misdeeds to anyone. Arathi also claimed that she was the one who had secretly shot the 2010 video of Nithyananda and Ranjitha.
Arathi, however, had not lodged any formal complaint with the police because she feared repercussions. But Arathi’s account was sufficient for the government to launch a probe against Sex Swami. In the beginning, Nithyananda’s followers tried to defend Nithyananda by accusing Arathi of tainting the name of their guru.
Among the many skeletons that tumbled out of Sex Swami’s closet was the allegation that he made his followers sign a non-disclosure contract that had the following clause:
“Volunteer understands that the Program may involve the learning and practice of ancient tantric secrets associated with male and female ecstasy, including the use of sexual energy for increased intimacy/spiritual connection, pleasure, harmony, and freedom. Volunteer understands that these activities could be physically and mentally challenging, and may involve nudity, access to visual images, graphic visual depictions, and descriptions of nudity and sexual activity, close physical proximity and intimacy, verbal and written descriptions and audio sounds of a sexually oriented, and erotic nature, etc.”
BENGALURU FORENSIC SCIENCES LABORATORY VERDICT AND US ANALYSTS
The Forensic Sciences Laboratory in Bengaluru had already confirmed that Nithyananda and Ranjitha indeed were the two people shown in the tape.
In 2012, Nithyananda had refuted the claim and said that four independent US-based experts had analysed the tape and concluded that the content was “fake” and “morphed”. He gave copies of the claimed US research reports to the Crime Investigation Department in Karnataka, which was investigating the case.
Ranjitha, in 2013, took a vow to lead the life of a sanyasin at Swami Nithyananda’s ashram on the outskirts of Bangalore. It is said that she took on the name of Ma Anandamayi.
VERDICT FROM THE CENTRAL FORENSICS LAB
In the latest development in the notorious sex video scandal, the central forensics laboratory confirmed yesterday that the people in the tape are actually Swami Nithyananda and Ranjitha.
WHERE IS SWAMI NITHYANANDA NOW?
The controversial godman, meanwhile, continues to go about his daily life talking to his disciples and organising various programmes at his Dhyanapeetham ashram.