April 22, 2010 / 4:36 PM / 9 years ago

Police arrest "holy man" over sex scandal

BANGALORE, India (Reuters) - Police have arrested a Hindu holy man with thousands of followers across India and abroad after video footage emerged last month allegedly showing him frolicking with two women.

Nithyananda Swami, whose devotees include politicians and movie stars, was arrested in the resort town of Shimla in northern India late on Wednesday, police said on Thursday.

Swami, head of Dhyanapeetam, or “knowledge center,” was forced to resign last month after the video that was allegedly shot in his center outside the southern city of Bangalore.

The leaked video aired by news channels angered hundreds of devotees who ransacked his center and tore down his posters, forcing him to go into hiding.

“He will be brought to Bangalore for further investigations,” D.V. Guruprasad, an officer of the Criminal Investigation Department said.

The 32-year-old, who denied any links to the women and said the tapes were doctored, is being investigated for rape, cheating and criminal conspiracy, police said.

The last few months have been bad for India’s self-styled holy men with police arresting a swami for running a brothel involving air stewardesses and college students, while charging another with kidnapping a minor.

Nithyananda Swami has spiritual centers in Europe and the United States and Dhyanapeetam runs free medical centers and supplies food to the poor.

Reporting by Habib Beary; Editing by Bappa Majumdar and Miral Fahmy

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