The controversial self-styled godman Swami Nithyananda, accused of kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers to run his ashram in Ahmedabad, has fled the country, and the police is working to gather concrete evidence against him, said the Gujarat police on Thursday.

The Gujarat Police is in touch with the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and other agencies to know the whereabouts of  Swami Nithyananda.

Ahmedabad Rural Superintendent of Police (SP) RV Asari said, “We have registered a case against Nithyananda and others and arrested two of his disciples Sadhvi Pran Priyananda and Priyatatva Riddhi Kiran on charges of allegedly kidnapping at least four children, keeping them in illegal confinement in a flat and using them as child labourers to promote activities of the ashram to collect donations,”news agency IANS quoted him as saying.

When asked about the whereabouts of Nithyananda, Asari said, “We are in touch with various other agencies to know the whereabouts of the godman.”

Ahmedabad Rural SP further said, “We are also in touch with MEA as we have to follow the proper channels.”

Earlier, on Monday a couple has moved Gujarat High Court on Monday, seeking custody of their two daughters who are being allegedly held in illegal confinement at an institution run by Nithyananda in Ahmedabad.

Petitioners Janardana Sharma and his wife told the court they had admitted their four daughters to an educational institution run by Swami Nithyananda in Bengaluru in 2013 when they were in the age group of 7-15 years. When they learnt that their daughters were this year shifted to another branch of Nithyananda Dhyanpeetham, named Yogini Sarvagyapeetham, situated on the premises of Delhi Public School in Ahmedabad, they tried to meet them.

In the plea, the Sharmas had sought the HC’s direction to the police as well to the institute’s authorities to produce their daughters, who they alleged are being kept under “illegal confinement”, before the court and give their custody to them. The couple has also sought an inquiry into other minor kids kept at the institute.

Earlier, In June 2018, a Karnataka court had framed charges against the controversial godman in a rape case.

According to Gujarat Police, Sadhvi Pran Priyananda and Priyatatva Riddhi Kiran were responsible for managing the ashram.

Another senior police officer related to the probe said that the two disciples of Nithyananda were arrested after two children in the age group of 9 and 10 years, enrolled at the ashram, told the cops that they were tortured and made to work as child labour and kept in illegal confinement at a flat in the city for over ten days.

He said, the accused persons have been booked under sections for kidnapping, wrongful confinement, voluntarily causing hurt, intentional insult with intent to provoke breach of peace, and sale of printed or engraved substance containing defamatory matter of the Indian Penal Code.

This is not the first time that self-styled Godman Nithyananda Paramashivam has found himself embroiled in controversy as he has been accused of committing “serious human atrocities in the name of Hinduism” by a former yogi at his ashram. In a petition on Change.org and on YouTube, the former yogi turned ‘whistleblower’ describes how Nithyananda would torture the ashram’s inmates, in particular children.

(With IANS inputs)