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Page last updated at 15:45 GMT, Thursday, 4 March 2010

Nine arrested in India holy man sex scandal protest

At the protest against the Swami
Pictures of the holy man were burned at the protest

Nine people have been arrested in south India for vandalising the ashram of a Hindu holy man after TV channels showed him allegedly engaging in sexual acts.

The footage appears to show Nithyananda Swami, 32, in bed with two women.

On Wednesday, angry crowds attacked parts of his ashram near Bangalore in Karnataka state. He was not present and police say his whereabouts are unknown.

The Nithyananda Mission ashram released a statement branding the video "a mix of conspiracy, graphics and rumours".

The ashram says it is part of a global movement for meditation and peace. Several prominent Indian politicians have visited Mr Nithyananda's ashram in the past.

Ashrams attacked

Correspondents say the sex scandal has shocked his devotees and angered locals. The holy man has a huge following in southern India.

"He is a high-flying Swamiji doing fraud on innocent people, he should not be spared," said Kumaraswami, a local villager.

On Wednesday, protesters pelted stones and set fire to huts inside the ashram near the city of Bangalore. Protests were also held at Mr Nithyananda's spiritual centres in neighbouring Tamil Nadu state.

Police have since been posted outside the ashram in Bangalore.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in the Karnataka state assembly have demanded Mr Nithyananda's arrest and called on the government to take over his ashram.

An inquiry has been ordered to find out if he committed any unlawful activities at the ashram.

A group of lawyers in the city of Madras in Tamil Nadu state have also filed a police complaint accusing Mr Nithyananda of obscenity.

Last week it was announced that a self-styled Hindu holy man was being investigated by police in Delhi for allegedly running a prostitution ring.



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