For years, Sunil Kulkarni projected himself as a psychiatrist, corporate management trainer, director of Sharda University and CMD of an upcoming finishing school.
According to police, however, all these claims by self-styled ‘cult’ leader, Kulkarni — now in Mumbai police custody — are being investigated.
Kulkarni, 54, is accused of allegedly sexually exploiting young followers whom he lured through social media into his group ‘Shifu Sunkriti’ by promising break in Bollywood and modelling.
Before his arrest on April 18, following a Bombay high court order, Kulkarni had served two jail terms in two different charges in New Delhi.
In 2005 he was arrested, and later let off on bail, for allegedly running an admission racket. In July 2016, he spent 19 days in Delhi’s Tihar jail after being accused of raping a 17-year-old girl who aspired to make it big in the film industry.
His latest brush with the law came last week after a couple from Mumbai suburb Malad approached the Bombay high court with a plea that their two daughters (23 and 21 years old ) had left home to live with him in January. The plea claimed that the group ‘Shifu Sunkriti’, was a “sex and drug racket”. The parents accused Kulkarni of “breaking families by preying on the vulnerabilities of the children”.
A week ago, similar complaints were registered by parents of two boys against Kulkarni and his group. The sisters were aspiring models and the boys had been promised film scriptwriters’ job, police investigations revealed.
On Tuesday, the high court granted the crime branch additional time for further probe. The observations came after the crime branch submitted its probe report in a sealed envelope before a bench of justice Ranjit More and justice AM Badar.
On various social media accounts from where he operated, Kulkarni claimed to have a doctorate in psychology from an institute in Nagpur. Police said this was untrue.
His Twitter page, with 397 followers, shows him giving a speech with Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis’s picture in the background. On LinkedIn, he projects himself as CMD of an upcoming finishing school and chairman of Neuroplasticity Resilience Centre besides having set up many IT, nursing and paramedical schools. His followers have endorsed him for skills including management, organisational development and planning. Police said all these claims appear false.
“The Neuroplasticity Resilience Centre, of which he claims to be chairman, has no address. Some other ventures have vague addresses. We have not been able to trace any of these,” said a police officer associated with the investigation.
Police, however, refused to describe the group a cult because only four victims had been identified so far. They said, so far they know that Kulkarni moved to Delhi after Bachelor’s and Master’s from Nagpur, where he claimed to have conducted corporate training courses. Not much is known about his family except that he is separated from his wife and two children.
“When we tried to contact his family (in Delhi), they requested us to not involve them as they were not in touch with him for more than five years,” the police officer added.
While examining the ‘Shifu Sunkriti’ Facebook page, which was run by one of the ‘victim’ sisters, police claimed they found posts with sexual undertones. The page sends out calls for workshops with venues. The only way to get in touch is to drop a phone number or send out an email on the given email id, said police.
According to police, the victims have been blaming their parents for ‘harassing’ them and are not speaking out against Kulkarni.
Before he was arrested, Kulkarni had told media persons ‘Shifu Sunkriti’ was not an organisation but his mystic name.
(With inputs from HT Mumbai)