Godman goes into lock-up with laboured grin
Nithyananda produced before court; remanded to police custody in Bangalore
The arrival section at Bengaluru International Airport (BIA) Thursday evening was a sea of Khaki - policemen armed with carbines and batons -- guarding Gate 7 from which was to emerge Nithyananda, the self-styled 33-year old godman, arrested by the state CID in Himachal Pradesh on Wednesday.
When he did emerge, hands folded in a ‘namaste’, a rudraksh-bead necklace dangling from his wrist, and a cosmetic grin that for seven years was worn to charm hundreds, Nithyananda’s gaunt visage and his eyes could not conceal the fear and confusion.
By his right was his bespectacled US head of operations, Gopal Sheelum Reddy, alias Bhaktananda (described by a number of former devotees as ‘Rowdy Swami’), also arrested in CID’s stealth operation at Solan in Himachal Pradesh. Reddy is a green card holder and a resident of California.
As Nithyananda, dressed in a saffron robe under which he wore a saffron singlet, took a few steps out of Gate 7, chaos broke loose.
A battery of journalists, photographers, visitors to the airport and the police jostled with each other as plainclothes cops tried to make way for the godman to walk past.
In the utter pandemonium, when Deccan Herald asked Nithyananda whether he regretted it all, the godman stared but did not respond. One US-based NRI devotee who had met Nithyananda at the godman’s hideout told Deccan Herald over phone “the swami was without remorse for what he had done”.
Along with Gopal Reddy, the godman was bundled into a waiting car which sped away toward Ramanagara where he was first taken to the district government hospital for a simple, customary physical examination before being produced in court. The Judicial Magistrate remanded him to police custody for four days. Nithyananda and Reddy were later driven to the CID headquarters in the City and lodged in a lock-up.
The Karnataka CID clarified that only Nithyananda and Reddy were arrested in Wednesday’s raid while three other devotees, who were detained on Thursday, were taken to the Bidadi ashram. The three, however, will be called by the CID for further examination.
Nithyananda’s bete noir Lenin Karuppan, alias Dharmananda, who exposed the godman’s sexcapades with a Tamil actress, will arrive here Friday evening.
Nithyananda, Reddy, the three devotees and the CID team flew here on Kingfisher flight 107 (from Mumbai) that touched down at BIA at 6:40 pm.
Their luggage, comprising several suitcases, three laptops, three video cameras, backpacks and a bundle of documents, seized in Wednesday’s raid, were moved out in three cart-loads.
Police sources said after being arrested at Shivshankargarh village under Arki police station, Himachal Pradesh, on Wednesday, the accused persons were moved to Shimla. On Thursday morning, they were taken by road to Chandigarh from where they took a flight to Mumbai via Delhi. In all, the godman, arrested on several criminal charges, and his associates, were in air for a good seven hours before they landed here.
The interrogation of Nithyananda and Reddy by the CID will begin on Friday. The police will also analyse the laptops and the five SIM cards seized from the duo’s possession to find out leads for their case.
Police sources said the laptops and SIM cards are likely to yield “valuable information”.
The police are aware of the several calls Reddy made on behalf of Nithyananda to people in the US, Karnataka and Tamil Nadu. The police suspect that threat emails were sent out to some influential NRI former devotees in the US. One of the three associates is suspected to have made calls to an Andhra Pradesh-based devotee in a bid to “blackmail” him into silence.