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Self-styled godman Pratibhanand arrested over killing of BSP leader

He wanted to build his own ashram in Haridwar with the money earned from the contract killing

india Updated: Sep 18, 2017 11:48 IST
Peeyush Khandelwal
Peeyush Khandelwal
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Self-styled godman,Fake babas,Murder of BSP leader
Ghaziabad police arrested self-styled godman Baba Pratibhanand over the killing of BSP leader Deepak Bhardwaj in 2013. (HT Photo )

The Ghaziabad police on Saturday arrested self-styled godman Baba Pratibhanand, who is wanted by Delhi police in connection with the murder of Bahujan Samaj Party leader and businessman Deepak Bhardwaj in 2013.

Investigation had revealed that Pratibhanand hired contract killers to eliminate Bhardwaj, the richest candidate in the 2009 Lok Sabha elections with declared assets of nearly Rs 600 crore.

The arrest is the latest in the sordid saga of ‘godmen‘ in India found involved in ghastly crimes ranging from sexual abuse to murder.

Last month, another so-called spiritual leader Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh was convicted of raping two of his female devotees.

Earlier this year, a 23-year-old law student in the southern state of Kerala chopped off the genitals of a self-proclaimed holy man, Gangeshananda Theerthapada, also known as Sree Hari, for allegedly trying to rape her.

These “spiritual leaders” built vast empires often through dubious deals.

Machendranath alias Pratibhanand-- a native of Beed in Maharashtra-- too nursed an ambition to build his own ashram. He allegedly demanded Rs 5 crore for Bhardwaj’s contract killing, out of which he had planned to corner Rs 2 crore to build the ashram in Haridwar.

“Pratibhanand was arrested from Ghaziabad junction by a police team and booked him under the Arms Act. After getting information that he was roaming around Ghaziabad railway junction, we launched a manhunt with several teams and nabbed him. A pistol was also recovered from his possession. He was absconding since Bhardwaj’s killing,” said Akash Tomar, superintendent of police (city).

The officer said the self-styled godman had arranged shooters for Bhardwaj’s murder and had a bounty of Rs 1lakh on his head.

According to sources, Pratibhanand had run away from Maharashtra during his childhood and had arrived in Delhi where he became a ‘baba’ at a temple.

Earlier in 2013, Bhardwaj’s younger son Nitesh confessed that he got his father killed by engaging assailants provided by Pratibhanand. He held a grudge against his father for refusing to give a share in his (Bhardwaj’s) property to him.

The murder conspiracy was hatched six months prior to the killing. The hired killers had attempted twice to kill the BSP leader outside his 35 acre farmhouse in South Delhi’s Rajokri.

Pratibhanand was roped in by an accomplice of Nitesh. The self-styled godman hired Purushottam Rana alias Monu and Sunil Mann, the two shooters who allegedly killed the BSP leader on March 26, 2013 inside the farmhouse - Nitesh Kunj.

The Ghaziabad police said they would soon get in touch with their counterparts in Delhi, who are investigating the murder case.

First Published: Sep 16, 2017 12:08 IST