British authorities have cautioned people of Indian origin to be vigilant when responding to calls on their doors from individuals claiming to be from the Hindu holy city of Haridwar and promising to carry out prayers and rituals for a fee.
Officials have branded such people as 'rogue callers' who may or may not be genuine. The most vulnerable people are first generation Indian migrants now living alone and those who feel cut off from their Hindu religious roots in Britain.
Individuals claiming to be from Haridwar in India have been knocking on doors in areas that have a large presence of people of Indian origin. Such areas include Leicester, parts of London and the Sandwell area of Birmingham.
The individuals ask for donations and try to gain access to houses by offering to carry out prayers and other Hindu rituals for a fee. No untoward incident has so far been reported, but officials are worried at the crime potential of house owners providing access to such people.
Bob Robinson, manager of the official body Trading Standards in Sandwell, has warned the Indian community to be on their guard and to report any offenders. The organisation has publicised a number for people to report such callers.
He said: "We are very concerned that these men may be bogus callers, and we are advising residents not to deal with them and under no circumstances to allow them into their homes.
"Sandwell Trading Standards offers a rapid response service to incidents of doorstep crime. Anyone encountering these men or anyone else acting suspiciously who calls at their home should telephone us for an immediate response."
Mahboob Hussain, a councillor and cabinet member for neighbourhoods and housing in Birmingham, said: "Once again we need to stress to people of the dangers of letting strangers into their homes, irrespective of who they say they are. A genuine caller will always be prepared to wait outside while you ring to check on their authenticity."
Individuals claiming to be from Hardwar are the latest among the groups such as tantriks and spiritual healers who target the British Asian community and promise to solve any personal problem and even cure any disease.
Newspapers catering to Asian and Afro-Caribbean readerships have several pages of advertisements from such practitioners, promising magical cures and manna to those who believe in spells and occult practices.
Recently, a group of rationalists of Indian origin offered 10,000 pounds to any tantrik or spiritual healer who could scientifically prove to possess the ability to deliver the promise to cure people of any disease or solve any problem.
Lavkesh Prashar, president of the Birmingham-based Asian Rationalist Society of Britain, told IANS that such witch doctors and charlatans were exploiting the superstitious and gullible people from these communities and earning thousands of pounds every year.
Prashar said: "We challenge them to prove that they have magical powers under scientific conditions. They charge anything up to 300 pounds for a simple chat and claim they can cure anything from serious illness to bad luck."