Self-styled godman Nithyananda, accused of abducting children and confining them in his ashram in Ahmedabad, Gujarat, has fled the country, PTI reported, citing police officials on Thursday.

This came a day after the Gujarat High Court issued a notice to Nithyananda and the state government after a couple in Bengaluru filed a petition accusing him of detaining two of their daughters at his ashram.

Ahmedabad (Rural) Superintendent of Police RV Asari said the religious leader had escaped abroad. “If required, we will go through proper channel to seek his custody from abroad,” the police officer said. “We will definitely arrest him if he comes back to India.”

However, the Ministry of External Affairs said it had not received any “formal information” on Nithyanand from the state police or the home ministry. “Also, for any extradition request, we need the location and nationality details of the person,” the spokesperson said, according to NDTV. “We don’t have such information about him yet.”

Two of Nithyananda’s disciples – identified as Pranpriyanand and Riddhi Kiran – who were arrested on Tuesday, were charged with kidnapping, assault, and illegal confinement. A rural court in Ahmedabad sent them to five days in police custody on Wednesday evening. Deputy Superintendent of Police (Ahmedabad rural) KT Kamariya said they were being interrogated.

The superintendent said they were also looking into the case of a woman, who went missing from Nithyananada’s ashram. A complaint was registered by the woman’s father at the Vivekanand police station.

“He has been mentioned as an accused in the FIR, but we still need concrete evidence to proceed against him,” Kamariya told PTI.

The two disciples were arrested after two children alleged they were confined, tortured and made to work at an apartment for more than 10 days. Similar accusations were levelled by two other minors, who were rescued from the ashram after their parents filed police complaints, the police said. The accused were also booked under Section 14 of the Child Labour (Prohibition and Regulation) Act, 1986.

Gujarat Home Minister Pradipsinh Jadeja said the director general of police had instructed the superintendent of police to form a team that will conduct a detailed investigation in the case.

Meanwhile, the Secretary of the Central Board of Secondary Education on Thursday wrote to the Directorate of Schools, State Education Department, urging authorities to initiate an inquiry into the lease provided without permission to Nithyananda’s ashram, which is located inside the campus of the Delhi Public School in Ahmedabad, The News Minute reported.

The state education authority was asked to conduct an investigation and submit a report on the status of the No Objection Certificate provided to the school for seeking CBSE affiliation.

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