Nithyananda, a controversial godman, was booked last week for the alleged kidnapping and wrongful confinement of children to make them collect donations from followers. The police say he’s on the run. But this isn’t Nithyananda’s first brush with controversy. Meet Jansi Rani, who says her daughter was murdered at his ashram.
Akshaya Nath ChennaiNovember 27, 2019
Nithyananda performing a ritual with his disciples at his ashram on June 13, 2010. (File photo: PTI)
- Police say Nithyananda has fled the country
- Sangeetha, an inmate at his ashram, died in 2014
- Her mother says she was killed, wants CBI probe
When Sangeetha Arjunan died in 2014 at an ashram run by Nithyananda, a controversial godman who the police now say has fled the country, his organisation said she had suffered cardiac arrest.
But Sangeetha’s mother, Jansi Rani, says she’s certain her daughter was killed. And she wants the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) to take over the probe.
In an interview with India Today TV, Jansi Rani spoke at length about her ordeal, from the time when Sangeetha was still an inmate at Nithyananda’s Bengaluru ashram to events surrounding her death.
A native of Trichy, Sangeetha Arjunan lived in the Bengaluru ashram between 2008 and 2014. At the time of her death — December 28, 2014 — she headed the computer department. She was only 24.
Jansi Rani told India Today TV she made multiple attempts to bring her daughter back home.
Not only was Sangeetha in “a very bad state”, but she also once admitted ashram authorities claimed the right to hit inmates, who consented to the harsh punishment in a signed form, Jansi Rani said.
Then, one day, Sangeetha herself said she wanted to come back, her mother said.
Jansi Rani gave a chilling account of what followed: no sooner had they reached home than four men arrived to take Sangeetha back; they claimed she had stolen from the ashram and threatened to go to the police.
Once at the ashram, Sangeetha was “held captive”, and Jansi Rani wasn’t allowed in despite going there “more than ten times” and standing outside the gates “for hours”.
Jansi Rani said she wasn’t allowed to speak to her daughter on the phone. She said two others in the ashram — Hamsananda and Pranananda — kept making excuses to avoid her calls.
The ashram “made me promise before God that I wouldn’t go to the media,” but also promised to return Sangeetha, she said. But it wasn’t to be.
“I never saw my daughter again.”
‘I DON’T HAVE ANYONE’
An official release with the Nithyananda Sangha’s account of the circumstances surrounding Sangeetha’s death can still be accessed on its website.
It says Sangeetha died of “sudden cardiac arrest”, but that’s not all: it goes on to describe a family “with a history of cardiac problems leading to death at a young age” and contains links to CCTV footage and testimonies by a number of people, including a video of Jansi Rani thanking Nithyananda for healing her.
But Sangeetha’s family has said she did not have a heart condition.
“My daughter was killed. I am sure of it,” Jansi Rani told India Today TV.
She said Nithyananda’s organisation wanted to cremate Sangeetha at an ashram; it was only due to her “continuous insistence”, she said, that she was allowed to bring her daughter home.
Then there’s the issue of the post-mortems.
Jansi Rani said an initial examination was done only when she insisted on bring her daughter’s body home to conduct last rites.
Relatives noticed swelling and clotting on her legs, Jansi Rani said, and she then complained at the Ram Nagar police station in Bengaluru.
A second post-mortem, carried out under pressure from Jansi Rani, found there were “no organs” inside Sangeetha’s body.
A high court judge observed last year that the second autopsy “revealed that important organs were removed” in the first one, according to a report by The News Minute.
Jansi Rani said there’s been no progress in the case.
“It has been five years since I filed a case in a Karnataka court,” Jansi Rani said. “Only a year back did a judge say that the case can be transferred to CBI, but within ten days of the observation, the judge was transferred.”
She remembered how, in 2014, she requested parents with children at the Nithyananda ashram to bring them back. “They should not face a fate similar to my daughter’s,” she said.
And she described the toll the ordeal has taken on her family.
“After my daughter, my husband — heartbroken — suffered for two years and then died,” Jansi Rani said. “Now I don’t have anyone.”
“I have lost everything.”