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Canadian Woman Alleges Harassment of a Spiritual Leader’s Devotees at Bengaluru

Kathleen Bickert claims that devotees of Nithyananda are singled out and harassed by officials at Bengaluru airport.

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Canadian citizen Kathleen Bickert has blamed security guards at the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) in Bengaluru for discriminating and harassing the foreign devotees of spiritual leader Swami Nithyananda. In an online petition she started on Nov. 26, Bickert claims that some of the devotees have also been sexually harassed.

The Canadian woman’s petition on Change.org has been marked to External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj and ministry spokesperson Raveesh Kumar, and Bickert urges them to help stop the harassment of the devotees of Swami Nithyananda.

“These security guards have turned away four devotees in the last two weeks simply for their connection to Paramahamsa Nithyananda, and have even declared that they would turn away every tourist who follows Nithyananda,” Bickert says in her petition, asking people to stop the “illegal and despicable behavior of these rogue immigration officers.”

The petition has received over 1,800 supporters until now and also directs readers to the video in which she speaks about how she was harassed by the officers at the airport in 2012.

Bickert has also posted the video on her Facebook page, asking people to sign the petition, Nithyanandam. “I was sexually harassed by Immigration Officers at Bengaluru International Airport, and they threatened me while holding my passport. This is NOT how a tourist should be welcomed into India. Sign if you agree,” says her Facebook post.

She adds that some of the female devotees have also been sexually harassed by immigration officers. “While their passports are held by these gun toting authority figures who taunt, tease, and lustfully look them up and down, making inappropriate jokes amidst themselves,” she adds.

The petition says that many devotees and spiritual seekers have been victims of harassment and unrelated questioning that is not a part of the security check protocol. Many of them have been called back for re-examination of their bags, even after their bags have been cleared by the security and they are about to leave the airport. This has led to many missing their flights.

Senior officials of the Immigration Department of Bengaluru said that the petition has not come to their attention and action will be taken if these allegations are found true, the New Indian Express reported.

The social media post has drawn a barrage of comments from all over the world. A woman from New York says, “What Bangalore Airport is doing is illegal and religious persecution and needs to be stopped immediately!” Another man from India has commented: “This illegal and disrespectful act against guests to our country and Nithyananda Disciples is intolerable and unjust!”

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