The controversial Vasai man who claimed to cure all “diseases” through prayers passed away in the wee hours of Wednesday at his residence in Bhuigaon. Fifty-three-year-old Sebastian Martin, a severe diabetic patient, had been unwell for the past six months. Thousands attended the funeral procession from his house to the Holy Family Church in Bhuigaon on Wednesday.
Martin was known for his viral videos in which he allegedly cured people using his “touch and heal therapy”, and people from all over India would flock to his ‘Ashirward Prayer Centre’. Critics accused Martin of converting people to Christianity through his so-called healing centre, and the late Dr Narendra Dabholkar run outfit Maharashtra Andshraddha Nirmolan Samiti (MANS) had even filed a FIR against Martin and his aides for practising black magic.
In April, the police had closed down 18 year old prayer centre for its alleged black magic. Scores of devotees had protested the same by starting a peaceful march, leading to the Palghar police to impose Section 144 (unlawful assembly) of the IPC from 4 April to 17 April.
Joe Jacob, president, Vasai Virar Christian Association led the protest claiming that the ashram does not practice black magic or claim to miraculously heal medical ailments.
In February, the Vasai Gaon police arrested Vishnu Kurve, manager, and Vaibhav Tare, staffer of the Ashirward Prayer Centre in Bhuigaon, Vasai. The Maharashtra Andshraddha Nirmulan Samitii (MANS) registered a complaint against the trio, including Sebastian Martin, under Maharashtra Black Magic Act 2013. The duo was granted bail while Martin got an anticipatory bail from the Vasai court.
According to the complaint, the centre conducted prayers every Friday, Saturday and Sunday from morning to evening. On other days, devotees used to stay at the centre and participate in a residential retreat.
The centre claimed to cure all ailments including HIV, cancer, kidney, heart and other diseases through “miracles” and people from all over India would flock to the centre, said MANS activist Dilip Patil. In fact, bus services from Virar and Nalla Sopara were started to transport the devotees to the prayer centre, said Patil.