Nithyananda’s latest con-job is really magnificent in scope

Vijayapriya Nithyananda. Image courtesy of News18

An interesting incident erupted last week at a general discussion session of the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights when a woman in a saffron robe, adorned with heavy gold jewelry and posing as Vijayapriya Nithyananda spoke about the persecution of the Supreme Pope the Hindu spoke. Bhagavan Nithyananda Paramashivam, in India. According to her, Nithyananda was banned from preaching and he was exiled from his native land. She said she represents the United States of Kailasa, a “country” founded by Nithyananda, in her capacity as Permanent Ambassador to the United Nations. However, a few days later, she also issued a clarification that it is not the Indian state or people, but certain anti-Hindu elements that are persecuting the Pope and his followers for following a Hindu lifestyle.

The event was greeted with much amusement in India as videos of the proceedings circulated all over social media. Vijayapriya sounded like a polished diplomat presenting a real case of her “national” leader’s persecution, the only snag being that Nithyananda is not a persecuted man but a fugitive facing multiple criminal charges in India, including the rape of a US -Citizenship and the kidnapping of Indian citizens. Nithyananda was also embroiled in a sex scandal when a southern film actor was found in his bedroom and sun tv aired the video in 2010.

But the latest swindle he’s trying to pull off is indeed grand in scope – he’s trying to secure international legitimacy for his “country,” the United States of Kailasa (USK). Kailasa is named after Mount Kailash, a sacred mountain in Tibet that is Lord Shiva’s abode. USK is a fictional country he founded by buying an island off the coast of Ecuador. This isn’t the first time an Indian godman has attempted to pull this off. Acharya Rajneesh was the first to set up a “Rajneeshpuram” in Oregon in the 1980s with its own police force, public transit system and fire department.

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But Nithyananda is clearly miles ahead. Its USK not only has a territory and a population, but also a flag, a constitution, an emblem, a currency, a passport and even its own visa regulations. Anyone can travel to USK and enjoy their hospitality by boarding a charter flight from Australia. The e-visa can be applied for via a very public link shared on Twitter. The USK also strives for international recognition through agreements with other countries. In one post, they claimed that the United States recognized USK when actually only one town twinning agreement had been signed by the American city of Newark, and that too was canceled after the USK gang’s suspicious balance sheet and deception surfaced. Also, Nithyananda uses the nickname “Supreme Pope of Hinduism” to assert himself as the authority on Hinduism, although there is actually no such tradition or position in the Hindu religion. Unlike Christianity, which has a system of a pope or pope, Hinduism has none.

The mere fact that the USK scam has infiltrated the UN system, as last week’s events have shown, is worrying. This is nothing more than a clear abuse of UN procedures. In its defence, the UN committee pointed out that it was a general discussion day where representatives of civil society or NGOs could speak, but even there there was a review process. The fact that a fictional setup of a refugee and a criminal was allowed to use the UN platform is a big question mark for the multilateral organization. In fact, there was another discussion organized by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in which another USK representative spoke. However, the comments they made were not included in either of the two draft results. Nithyananda had sought refuge in Ecuador after fleeing India, but that’s an accusation the South American country has consistently denied. Although this country remains a perennial favorite with refugees like Julian Assange and Paul Ceglia who find sanctuary in Ecuador.

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Ecuador is one of the poorest countries in South America where money can buy a degree of influence, and it seems Nithyananda is taking full advantage of the opportunity, especially since India has yet to have an extradition treaty with Ecuador.

The author holds a PhD in International Relations from the Department of International Relations, South Asian University. Her research interests are the political economy of South Asia and regional integration. The views expressed are personal.

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Date updated: March 7, 2023 09:03:59 IST


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