Amid the ongoing controversy surrounding the fictional country of ‘Kailasa’, the city of Newark in the US state of New Jersey has rescinded a sister-city agreement with the 'United States of Kailasa', citing deceptive circumstances surrounding it and terming the incident as “regrettable”.
The so-called country, popularly known as 'Kailasa', was founded in 2019 by Indian fugitive and self-styled godman Nithyananda. According to its website, it counts "two billion practising Hindus" among its population. Nithyananda is wanted in India on several charges of rape and sexual assault – allegations he denies. The country has not been recognised by the UN yet.
Press Secretary in the Department of Communications, City of Newark, Susan Garofalo told PTI in an email that as soon as "we learned about the circumstances surrounding Kailasa, the City of Newark immediately took action and rescinded the sister city agreement”.
“Based on deception, the ceremony was groundless 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,” the email read.
The sister-city agreement between Newark and the so-called USK was entered into on January 12 this year and the signing ceremony took place at City Hall in Newark.
Newark Councilman at Large Luis Quintana, who sponsored the motion to rescind the agreement, called the incident an oversight. He said that going forward any city entering into a sister city agreement “has to be in good standards of human rights”.
“We cannot bring Sister Cities International into an issue where there is controversy. This is an oversight, cannot happen any longer,” he noted.
Last week, two representatives of ‘Kailasa’ attended a United Nations meeting in Geneva, demanding protection for the "supreme pontiff of Hinduism". Videos and images of one fo the representatives – a saffron-clad USK representative identified as Vijayapriya Nithyananda – were doing rounds on social media.
Although the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) dismissed any submissions made by the representatives as "irrelevant", their presence at the international forum drew much attention of the global audience.
Responding to questions on USK’s participation at the UN forums, the UN human rights office said registration for such public events is open to NGOs and the general public. Anyone can submit information to the treaty bodies. But it is the treaty bodies “who will use their judgment to determine the credibility of the submissions received”.
“On the day of the CEDAW general discussion, USK members were prevented from distributing promotional material in front of and inside the conference room. Their written submission to CEDAW will not be published by the Committee as it is irrelevant to the topic of the general discussion,” OHCHR had said.