MUMBAI, Dec 6 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - A holy man wanted by Indian police on sex assault charges has said he has created a new country for Hindus that will fight global warming, offer free healthcare and promote gender equality and vegetarianism.
Nithyananda Swami, who once had thousands of followers that included film stars and politicians in India and abroad, was arrested in 2010 over a sex scandal. He was later charged with rape and abduction, and reported to have fled India.
But this week, Nithyananda announced in a YouTube video that he had set up his own country called Kailaasa, dedicated to the "preservation, restoration and revival of an enlightened culture and civilisation based on authentic Hinduism".
All practising Hindus - numbering more than 1 billion - can apply for citizenship in Kailaasa, named after Mount Kailash in Tibet, which is considered sacred by Hindus and Buddhists.
The website https://kailaasa.org has images of a triangular flag and a passport, but does not say where Kailaasa is located.
It is an island, purchased by some of Nithyananda's wealthy followers, off the coast of Ecuador, according to media reports in India.
Micronations such as Kailaasa are self-proclaimed entities claiming to be independent sovereign states but not recognised by other countries or the United Nations.
There are about 80 micronations in the world, according to Google Maps https://www.google.com/maps/d/u/0/viewer?mid=1VzMWnhHJbOWfCFkaEtTSw_3cNO4&hl=en&ll=-27.803759174969684%2C-100.46428450000008&z=2. They are usually created as a form of philosophical experiment, a political protest, artistic expression or for fun. Several have their own currency, constitution, and even armies.
Another Indian spiritual guru, Rajneesh, founded the city of Rajneeshpuram in Oregon in the 1980s, with its own police, fire department and public transport system.
(Writing by Rina Chandran @rinachandran; Editing by Michael Taylor. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's and LGBT+ rights, human trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)