Newark, New Jersey, has acknowledged that it was deceived over a five-day period in January when Mayor Ras Baraka welcomed what he thought to be a delegation from the Hindu country of Kailasa to participate in a sister city agreement.
According to a Guardian report, a signing ceremony was held at which Baraka told a Kailasa delegate:“I pray that our relationship helps us to understand cultural, social and political development and improves the lives of everybody in both places.”
But it turned out that Baraka, who was once featured on singer Lauryn Hill’s 1998 The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, and Newark’s city council were all being taken for a ride. Kailasa doesn’t exist, according to the report.
The Newark city hall admitted this week that the infamous Indian fugitive Swami Nithyananda had conned it. According to Newark officials, the agreement to twin with Kailasa had only been in place for six days before it was cancelled as “baseless and void”.
“Although this was a regrettable incident, the city of Newark remains committed to partnering with people from diverse cultures in order to enrich each other with connectivity, support and mutual respect,” a city spokesperson said.
Shakee Merritt, a resident of Newark, later told CBS he was surprised that “no one in City Hall, not one person did a Google search, so maybe we need a transformation of City Hall ’cause not one person said, let me go and Google and figure out this was a fake city”.
Some Hindu temples can be found in the southern half of India when you search for “Kailasa” on Google Maps. You’ll also find a link to a website that describes India as a “ancient enlightened civilization, the great cosmic borderless Hindu nation” and calls Nithyananda “the Reviver” in the description.
But, according to reports from Indian news agencies, Nithyananda is a well-known con artist who has been on the run from the law ever since he was accused of rape and kidnapping in 2019.
At the same time, Nithyananda declared the founding of Kailasa and asserted ownership of an island off the Ecuadorian coast.
The fugitive guru’s representatives were reportedly present for a Diwali celebration at the British House of Lords, according to a Guardian report.
The UN declared earlier this month that it will disregard any remarks made by Nithyananda’s representatives at two committee meetings held in Geneva in February.
According to the BBC, Kailasa representatives took part in discussions on sustainable development and the representation of women in decision-making structures.
The comments made by participants in the initial debate were later deemed “irrelevant to the topic of the general discussion,” according to Vivian Kwok, a media representative for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. She said that a statement made during the second meeting “was tangential to the topic at hand”.