Clashes rock Nithyananda ashram

Pro-Kannada activists, inmates scuffle: Disciples among 30 arrested

The Ramanagara police arrested more than 30 people and used canes to bring situation under control in and around the ashram of controversial godman Nithyananda near Bidadi, about 30 kilometres from here, on Friday.

One of Nithyananda’s disciples argue with a police officer before her arrest.

The arrested people included a few ashramites and activists of various pro-Kannada outfits. A few persons were injured in the incident. The police clamped prohibitory orders by nightfall, when their efforts to ensure law and order threatened to fail.

On Thursday too, trouble had erupted when activists of a pro-Kannada organisation and the ashramites clashed, after a press conference convened by Nithyananda. He was irked by a question posed by a TV journalist and directed his followers to evict him.

A few ashramites manhandled the journalist, provoking the other mediapersons to boycott the interaction. Later in day, a few activists of an organisation barged into the ashram and picked a quarrel with the inmates. A complaint and a counter-complaint were lodged with the police following the incident.

Friday’s press conference was scheduled at 2 pm and several reporters were invited. However, the ashramites, who allowed a couple of reporters in, refused entry to other media persons. When the reporters protested, Nithyananda’s followers said a private Kannada news channel had aired a programme defaming Nithyananda and hence they would not allow them inside.

By this time, hundreds of activists of various organisations were protesting in front of the ashram to condemn the alleged attack on journalists and activists on Thursday.

They objected to the asharam inmates barring entry to the reporters, arguing that such ban made no sense if the Ashram had nothing to hide. A few of them tried to gain entry inside forcefully, while a few others lobbed stones inside.

The police used the canes to disperse the activists and later arrested more than 20
activists.

Hundreds of activists of various associations tore apart Nithyananda’s flexes, banners and cut-outs on Bangalore-Mysore Road. They smeared his pictures with black paint.

While there was mayhem outside, inside the ashram the situation was chaotic. A few of Nithyananda’s acolytes began the press conference by 1:30 pm and showed video footage of the incidents that took place on Thursday.

They said a few ‘Kannada goondas’ attacked two ashramites. The use of term ‘Kannada goondas’ provoked two activists of a pro-Kannada organisation, who had entered inside posing as reporters, to protest.

“You drink water of Karnataka and eat food of Karnataka. You stay in Karnataka and now call Kannadigas goondas,” they shouted and staged a walk-out. The press conference was boycotted following the incident.

As scuffles broke out between the pro-Kannada activists and the ashramites, the latter refused to allow police to enter the ashram, despite pleas from police inspectors and two CPIs.

Soon, DySP M G Ramakrisnappa arrived and came and dispersed the angry crowd. Within minutes, Ramanagara SP Anupam Agarwal was at the spot, and he took the ashramites for task for refusing entry for reporters and media. He directed the women constables to arrest women ashramites guilty of disturbing peace. In total, 15 inmates including 10 women were arrested. Agarwal ordered the police to launch a search for Nithyananda who was not present in the ashram when clashes occurred.

Deputy Commissioner V S Ramareddy said prohibitory orders under section 144 of the IPC were clamped throughout the district till June 13.

“The poll to Bangalore Graduates’ Constituency will be held on June 10. The violent incidents before the poll date is not a healthy sign and hence the prohibitory orders were clamped to ensure law and order situation,” he told Deccan Herald.

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