An Indian guru facing rape and sexual abuse charges has made headlines after he emerged from hiding and announced the birth of a new cosmic country with its own cabinet and golden passports.
Swami Nithyananda, a controversial self-styled “godman” with thousands of followers in southern India’s Karnataka and Tamil Nadu states, posted a video on his YouTube channel on Wednesday announcing the special project to his followers.
The 41-year-old guru announced that his country is called Kailaasa and is the biggest Hindu nation without boundaries.
“The Hindu nation exists in cosmos,” he said in the now-viral video.
Local media reports cited a website allegedly created by the guru with details about his plans for Kailaasa, even as the police and other authorities investigating him for various criminal charges still do not know his whereabouts.
The website shares details of different government departments and agencies in his “country”, including homeland security, commerce, treasury, housing, technology and one for enlightened civilisation.
It also shared Kailaasa’s flag and emblem, and announced Tamil, Sanskrit and English as its official languages.
Though not convicted, Nithyananda first made national headlines in 2010 after he was arrested and jailed for 53 days over a sex scandal involving him and a regional actress.
Subsequently, other women also accused him of abusing them at his religious retreat in Karnataka.
Last month, a case was registered against him in the western Indian state Gujarat on charges of wrongful confinement of children.
Indian media reports said the police believe he fled the country during the investigation.
The India Today news website reported that Nithyananda escaped to Ecuador via neighbouring Nepal. Al Jazeera could not verify the authenticity of the report.
India’s Ministry of External Affairs has said it was unaware of Nithyananda’s whereabouts.
“So far what we know is that he is not in the Ashram (his retreat) here for almost a year,” a police officer told the Press Trust of India.
“This is one of the 10 to 15 Ashrams he has nationwide. His main areas of operation are Tamil Nadu and Gujarat,” he added.
Meanwhile, the self-styled guru has continued to give sermons on his YouTube channel.
“Some people against me, they are looking for me, but I am in the Himalayas, in Kailasa,” he said last week in a live YouTube address.
Nithyananda is one of several Indian gurus who’ve faced charges ranging from murder, sexual assault, rape and financial fraud over the last few years.
In 2017, Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh, another controversial self-styled “godman”, was arrested and charged with raping two of his female disciples.
His arrest led to widespread rioting and clashes in northern Haryana state that killed at least three dozen people.
In November 2014, Indian guru Baba Rampal Maharaj, 63, was arrested in northern Haryana state in connection with a 2006 murder case.