When officials in Newark recently got tricked into establishing a sister-city relationship with the United States of Kailasa — a country that does not actually exist — the largest metropolis in New Jersey became a global laughingstock.
But those in the know find nothing funny about Newark aligning itself with a nation created to honor the so-called Supreme Pontiff of Hinduisim (SPH), Paramahamsa Nithyananda.
The swami is allegedly a fugitive from justice who’s been, according to the BBC, charged with rape and child abduction in India.
He is said to have fled that country in 2019 and his whereabouts are unknown.
The fear is that Nithyananda may have wanted the sister-city status, which was canceled after a few days, to bring credibility to what some people view as a cult.
“Most likely, he wants to raise his profile in the United States to recruit people,” cult deprogrammer Rick Alan Ross told The Post. “And if there is money involved, he is interested.”
A Newark politician told The Post that “there may have been no cash exchanged, but there could have been meals and hotels paid for. That is an international crime, committed on our grounds. We need to understand what motivated the decision [by Newark officials to make USK a sister city], what made them stop it and if there were any liabilities.”
He added that it could have been worse.
“Who knows what could have happened?” the politician told The Post. “We invite these folks over, oblivious of their intentions, and they can end up recruiting people in our city. We could have been taken advantage of at home. They could have hosted events here and recruited people.”
Nathyananda has denied charges of sexual abuses and was not himself at the sister-city ceremony.
Instead, USK was represented by Vijayapriya Nathyananda, who appears to be based in the Washington, DC, area and identifies herself as Permanent Ambassador to the UN, even though the UN does not recognize USK as a country.
Vijayapriya not only shares her guru’s last name, but she also has a large tattoo of his face on her bicep.
“I had this tattoo done in 2016, shortly after my experience with the SPH in a program with thousands of attendees,” she told The Post. “The SPH had a profoundly positive impact on my life. His tattoo serves as a daily reminder of that. It’s a symbol of gratitude to Him.”
According to the Newark politician, the public was unimpressed by Vijayapriya’s appearance, which included gold-colored jewels, smoky eyeliner and a black turban: “Folks thought she was some sort of hypnotist when they saw the picture of the [Sister City] ceremony.”
Though Vijaypriya insists that there was nothing fraudulent, Newark’s spokeswoman told The Post, “We hope cities throughout the country and around the world are now alerted to the deceptive activities of this baffling syndicate.”
As for the physical existence of the United States of Kailasa, that gets a little vague, even when explained by Vijayapriya.
It “is a borderless, service oriented country,” she told The Post. “It is established on the principal of Oneness.”
Vijayapriya explained that her background includes growing up in the East African island country of Mauritius, studying microbiology at University of Manitoba in Canada and becoming smitten with the philosophies of Nithyananda after seeing him on YouTube.
She is one of several women who now represent him around the world, in St. Louis, Mexico, Los Angeles and other locales.
“I became a Hindu nun,” she said. “I’m dedicated to the welfare of humanity and global peace, guided by SPH’s teachings.”
In 2018, Nithyananda was said to have bought an island off the coast of Ecuador where he founded a new country. Ecuador has denied giving him asylum.
The Kailasa website maintains that there are 2 billion practicing Hindus as part of the nation’s population, that it has its own flag, central bank and passport.
A cheeky segment on Fox News saw one of Jesse Watters’ staffers applying for and receiving a Kailasa passport.
Newark is not alone in feeling snookered by the United States of Kailasa.
Some 30 US jurisdictions — including Pomona, California; Richmond, Virginia; and Delaware, Ohio — have given various forms of acknowledgement to the USK.
Norma Torres, a California congresswoman, is among them.
Through her spokesperson, she told The Post, “The certificate [of special Congressional recognition] was given to a local congregation by a former staffer. Upon learning of the very serious and credible allegations against their leader, our office promptly recalled the certificate.”
A spokesperson for one Congressman, who would only speak on condition of anonymity, explained how it happened.
“A constituent wanted a note recognizing a day [to commemorate Nithyandana],” said the politician’s spokesperson. “We get hundreds of these a year and usually it is not a problem. We sent the letter and that was a mistake. It was an attempt for the group to achieve legitimacy. They exploited our office with a non-binding letter. We found out about [Nithyananda’s] concerning past after what happened in Newark.”
In order to rescind the honor, according to the spokesman, “We would have to physically take back the letter.”
Even the UN unwittingly provided a platform for the would-be nation.
Claiming to be the permanent ambassador of the United States of Kailasa, Vijayapriya appeared at public meetings in Geneva, Switzerland, in late February and characterized USK as “the first sovereign state for Hindus.”
A UN representative described USK’s points as “irrelevant to the topic of the general discussion” — one about women in decision-making systems, organized by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and the other, hosted by the UN’s Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, about sustainable development.
As for India’s charges against Nithyananda, Vijayapriya maintained, “The [sexual and other] allegations are false. The SPH is not a fugitive but a persecuted individual whose basic rights were denied.”
He is also a self-styled “godman.” According to the Daily Beast, he’s got a million followers and claims to be able to heal the blind and stop sunrises.
Vijayapriya told The Post that claims that Nithyananda “jumped bail” when he left India are untrue.
“He did not ‘jump bail,” she said. “But [he] was out on bail when he left India, which he was entitled to do. [He] has remained abroad in order to seek asylum because he claims a well-founded fear of persecution.”
Nithyananda was the subject of a 2022 Discovery+ documentary called “My Daughter Joined a Cult,” in which one former member proclaims, “This is a cult and I’ve been duped.”
Other former members appearing in the series allege that their children were taken away from them by group leaders, and mothers can be seen standing outside of what is said to be Nithyananda’s ashram — screaming to be reunited with their kids.
As for the Sister City relationship with Newark, Navajaya did not specifically answer The Post’s question as to why it unraveled.
Instead, she replied, “We remain firmly committed to our purpose and we remain committed to global peace.”