India holy man quits after sex claim

BBC News/March 30, 2010

A Hindu holy man in India has quit as head of a religious organisation after police launched a probe into allegations of obscenity against him.

Nithyananda Swami's announcement came weeks after a video emerged apparently showing him engaging in sexual acts with two women.

The guru has said he had done nothing illegal and the video scandal was "a false campaign".

Nithyananda Swami has a huge following in southern India.

The video shocked his devotees and angered locals - his ashram near the southern city of Bangalore was vandalised after TV channels broadcast the video.

Police have launched an investigation into the incident - a senior detective told the BBC that they were investigating whether the guru had "outraged religious feelings" of his devotees.

The 32-year-old said in a statement that he was resigning as the head of his organisation, Dhyanapeetam (Knowledge Centre), and from all the trusts associated with him.

His organisation has branches in several countries, including the US and Europe.

"If required, I will return and talk about all that had happened as an independent witness to my conduct with a clean heart and pure soul and in a less prejudiced atmosphere," he said.

He said he had decided to live a "life of spiritual seclusion for an indefinite time".

The guru's followers allege the video was created and distributed by a jealous inmate of the ashram in a bid to defame him.

The guru's ashram has called the footage "a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumours".

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