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Guru Returns to Hero’s Welcome in India, Calls U.S. ‘Wretched’ Nation

Associated Press

Guru Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, ousted from the United States in an immigration scandal, returned early today to India and a hero’s welcome by red-robed devotees who scattered rose petals and chanted, “Bhagwan, we love you.”

Rajneesh, 53, who was jailed for 12 days in the United States, told reporters at the New Delhi airport that America “is just a wretched country.”

The guru, who founded a free-love commune in Oregon, smiled and waved as he walked on a carpet of flowers to a waiting gray Mercedes-Benz that took him to a luxurious hotel.

Rajneesh, who wore a green robe and diamond-studded hat, told reporters in a barely audible voice that it was “great” to be back in India and that his health was “all right.”

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He was greeted by about 600 singing and dancing disciples who threw flowers at him and his car and chanted: “Our hero is back, it is bliss to be at his feet.”

Rajneesh arrived with eight aides aboard a chartered jet from Bahrain, ending a journey that began Thursday night in Portland, Ore., and took him to Allentown, Pa.; Shannon, Ireland; Larnaca, Cyprus, and Bahrain.

Rajneesh, self-styled “guru of the rich,” said he has no plans to return to his original commune in Poona near Bombay. He made no formal statement but said his aides would arrange a news conference later.

Trek to Mountains

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His aides said he would start a new commune in the Himalaya Mountains in northern India.

“His problems in the U.S. were only a divine play. His work will continue as usual--meditation, celebrations, singing, dancing, ecstasy,” said Swami Yoga Chinmaya, head of a Rajneesh commune in Nepal.

“He will settle somewhere in the Himalayas and thousands will go with him. It is a purification process. Now the movement will be deeper, more intense, more fiery.”

Rajneesh was arrested with six disciples Oct. 28 when they flew to Charlotte, N.C., in two chartered jets. Federal prosecutors said Rajneesh was trying to flee to Bermuda to escape prosecution on charges of immigration fraud.

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“It is just a wretched country,” he said when asked how he felt about his treatment in America.

He pleaded guilty Thursday in Portland to two charges of arranging sham marriages to help his foreign disciples remain illegally in the United States.

The U.S. government dropped 33 other immigration charges in a plea bargain, assessed him $400,000 in fines and court costs, gave him a 10-year suspended prison sentence and ordered him to leave the country immediately.

Rajneesh abruptly left India four years ago after the government revoked the tax exempt status of his Poona commune and sued the India-based Rajneesh Foundation for 30 million rupees (then $2.5 million) in back taxes.

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No criminal charges have been filed against him here, Maharashtra state officials said. They said income tax officers have been investigating the accounts of the Poona commune and the possibility of income tax evasion.

Rajneesh claims a worldwide following of 500,000 disciples.


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