Indian guru arrested over sex scandal: police

AFP/April 22, 2010

Bangalore, India - An Indian guru shown on television fondling two women in bed last month was on Wednesday arrested in northern India on charges including obscenity and hurting religious sentiments, police said.

The long-haired Paramhamsa Nityananda, who claims to have devotees in 33 countries, and an aide Nithya Bhaktananda were nabbed in the northern state of Himachal Pradesh, senior police official D.V. Guruprasad told AFP.

Nityananda has been charged with "molestation, indulging in acts that are not in conformity with what they profess to be in religious and spiritual order, obscenity, criminal intimidation and hurting religious sentiments," Guruprasad said.

The 32-year-old, usually dressed in saffron robes, has been in the eye of a storm since the footage showing him in bed with two women devotees became public.

Nityananda, who went missing afterwards, has maintained the pictures were doctored.

The video clip triggered public anger that led to irate followers ransacking his ashram, 30 kilometres (20 miles) from India's southern software capital of Bangalore.

The upscale retreat dotted with an ornate temple and a residential complex is popular with Indian and Western devotees.

A bail plea filed in anticipation by lawyers on his behalf was rejected by a court in southern Karnataka state of which Bangalore is the capital.

India has been rocked by a series of scandals involving self-styled "godmen" who have been allegedly running vice rings and cheating people under the guise of legitimate religious practices.

Another "guru" was arrested in New Delhi in March on charges of running a prostitution racket involving airline cabin crew and college girls in northern India.

Many Indians and Westerners turn to the thousands of gurus found nation-wide who claim to offer spiritual guidance and help in reaching enlightenment.

Popular gurus include Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, the so-called "hugging saint" of Kerala, and Sathya Sai Baba, a wild-haired south Indian godman who claims to be the reincarnation of a 19th century yogi, Sai Baba of Shirdi.

Both have massive followings and hundreds of spiritual centres and charitable foundations working in areas like health and education around the globe.

To see more documents/articles regarding this group/organization/subject click here.