The UK representative of fugitive Hindu guru Nithyananda had reportedly attended a ‘glamorous’ Diwali party at the House of Lords earlier this year, after being invited by two senior Conservatives.
Atmadaya, the British representative for the controversial guru known as Nithyananda, was invited to the function by the MP Bob Blackman and the peer Rami Ranger, the Observer reported. Nithyananda’s organisation also took out a full-page advertisement in an accompanying brochure which was handed out to attendees.
Some attendees were upset at the profile given to the organisation, given that Nithyananda fled India in 2019 while facing multiple charges of abducting children and one of raping a follower. He has since claimed to have set up his own sovereign island state known as the “Republic of Kailaasa”, the report said.
Nithyananda has built up a huge following in India, where he ran more than a dozen temples and ashrams. He made extravagant claims about his supernatural abilities, including being able to delay the sunrise, see through walls, cure children of blindness and make cows talk.
But former followers have also made serious allegations about sexual exploitation and coercive behaviour.
One of his former disciples told the Observer she had been pressurised into having a sexual relationship with Nithyananda, and that followers were threatened with forced labour if they did not comply with his wishes.
She said: “We knew that we would be shunned by the whole community if we didn’t do what he wanted, or that worse, we would be made to do hard labour in the hot desert outside Bangalore.”
The former disciple said she had also been told by children that they were being beaten in the organisation’s homes.
Nithyananda has denied the accusations against him. Richard Rogers, Nithyananda’s UK-based lawyer, told the Observer: “The available evidence suggests that the (known) pending criminal allegations against the applicant in India are part of a broader campaign of religious persecution targeting the applicant, which is rooted in religious intolerance and based (in whole or large part) on falsified evidence.”
Rogers would not comment on the specific allegations made by Landry. But he added: “The allegations of alleged misconduct that I have looked into (in any depth), turned out to be based on evidence that is unreliable at best, and in some cases clearly manipulated or falsified.”
The Hindu Forum of Britain however stood by the invitation. Trupti Patel, the group’s president, said: “We do not discriminate; each entity has their own following. Social media/internet hype and unsubstantiated allegations against UK-registered charities cannot stop any two organisations working together.”
Atmadaya issued a statement in which she said the allegations against Nithyananda “are false and part of a campaign of religious persecution by anti-Hindu extremist elements of the government in India”, the Observer reported.