The city of Newark, New Jersey has egg on its face. It has reportedly admitted it was scammed into becoming a “Sister City” with a fake Hindu nation.
Mayor Ras Baraka invited representatives of “Kailasa” to Newark’s City Hall for a “cultural trade agreement,” according to CBS New York, but “Kailasa” doesn’t exist—it isn’t a real country.
“What started off as a seemingly well-intentioned partnership has turned into a giant embarrassment for the city of Newark,” Ali Bauman says in her report. “Earlier this year, Mayor Ras Baraka invited what he thought was the Hindu nation of Kailasa to Newark City Hall for a cultural trade agreement, but it turns out Kailasa is no nation at all, it’s a fake.”
As if the disconcerting lack of knowledge of geography and nationhood displayed by Newark officials (including its mayor) wasn’t enough, it turns out that there is also a link to crime involved that went unnoticed.
“Kailasa” is reportedly the fabrication of a notorious scam artist and fugitive from India who is called Swami Nithyananda. CBS News reports that Nithyananda has “been on the run from rape charges since 2019.”
Baraka and Newark apparently were not aware of “Kailasa’s” inauthenticity until the New Jersey city had already held an official ceremony. Footage shows city officials signing documents and taking photographs during the ceremony to become a “Sister City” with “Kailasa.”
Newark City Hall tried to put the best face on this colossal gaffe, stating, “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.”
Just days after signing the “Sister City” agreement papers, the Newark City Council reportedly rescinded the agreement. One city councilmember called the incident “an oversight” that “cannot happen any longer,” according to CBS News.
Many of the Newark residents interviewed by Ali Bauman were shocked by the news, with one calling it “very embarrassing” and another saying they “truly don’t even have words for it.”
Residents seem to be more embarrassed than the people responsible for this enormous gaffe. “Whose job was it to do a simple Google search? 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,” Shakee Merritt, a Newark resident, told Bauman.
As news of the scam spread across the United States, even high-profile celebrities joined in on the mockery.
New Jersey native actor Kal Penn joked on The Daily Show, “Jesus, Newark, how can an entire city get catfished? Not a single person realized they never heard of this country before? If you can’t find it as a cuisine on Grubhub, it’s not a real country.”
To be kind, we’ll mention that “Kailasa” does have a detailed website and, according to the India Times, the fake nation has been attempting to legitimize itself by dealing with various diplomats across the world. The fake country was reportedly “founded” by the fugitive Swami Nithyananda, and claims to be off the coast of Ecuador after Nithyananda purchased an island from the nation, but Ecuadorian officials have denied this.
Could it be that Ecuador was also duped and is too red-faced to admit it? We have two words of advice for Newark and Ecuador: Google Search!
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