Mumbai (The Hindu): The Samta Nagar police on Friday night raided a bungalow at Kandivali and rescued 12 minors and 16 youths, who were being held hostage and forced into marathon sessions of praying by Devendra Dubey (35) and Bhagwan Tiwari (39): self-proclaimed experts in vedic chants and mantras .
The duo from Benaras claimed to possess a hotline to the gods, and promised quick divine intervention for their clients who sought help for a range of issues, including wealth, turning a business failure into success, correcting bad astrological positioning of stars, medical disorders such as depression, and even holding in abeyance the death knell sounded by Yamraj . They also promised success in Vashikaran (invoking a spell to bind a pretty woman in love) through their proclaimed knowledge of tantras and black magic.
Police inspector Sunaina Nate told The Hindu : “A complaint was lodged by a relative of one of the minor boys, who had managed to send an SMS to him asking to be rescued from the clutches of the godmen. When the police raided the bungalow, we found 12 minors and 16 adults, all Brahmins, who had been forcibly kept confined in the house illegally for periods ranging from two to five months. The minors have been sent to the children’ correctional facility at Dongri. The accused have been remanded in police custody till June 13.”
The police are also looking for a woman accused, identified as Shweta Mali, who served as a manager at the prayer facility centre operated out of the bungalow and had entered into the leave and licence agreement with the landlord of the property.
Ms. Nate said that even on January 5, an FIR of a similar nature was registered against the accused after a relative of another child approached the police. “At that time, there were not many minors, but adults, who were rescued. The charge sheet was filed in that case. This time, we are seeking guidance of our superiors for a comprehensive investigation, so that the extent and scale of this racket may be unearthed.”
The accused would lure the Brahmin juveniles and adults from different States, including, Maharashtra, Chattisgarh, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh and Jharkhand. They scouted for their targets in ashrams and temple circuits. For the children and their relatives, who earned a basic remuneration attending prayers on the temple circuits, Rs. 20,000 to Rs. 25,000 per month seemed like a godsend. The two even entered into agreements of four to six months with many of the children.
One of the rescued youths said, “As a strategy, they laid a precondition that no payments would be received for the first two months. The accused promised quick fix to the problems of their upper class clientele, who were charged anything between Rs. 10 lakh and Rs. 25 lakh. I personally witnessed Rs. 25 lakh being paid by one of the clients. The duo would organise maha poojas that would need the incantation of Gayatri mantra and other intonations prescribed in the vedas.”
Special maha pujas and yagnyas to appease goddess Chandi , Durga or Shanidev were being held. “The children and the youths were required to continuously chant mantras like the Mahamrityunjay mantra that the accused claimed would save the lives of those on the threshold of an imminent demise.”
Shivdutt Tiwari (28) and Yogesh Sharma (30) are two of the rescued adults. Displaying a swollen right foot, Mr. Tiwari said, “We were made to recite the mantras for 16 hours continuously standing on one foot, and received beatings for refusing to obey instructions. We were locked up and confined to the bungalow, and not allowed to use our mobile phones making us virtually prisoners of the tantrik duo.”
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