Self­styled god­man held over killing of BSP leader

Hindustan Times (Lucknow) - - FRONT PAGE - Peeyush Khandelwal let­ters@hin­dus­tan­rimes.com

NEW DELHI: The Ghazi­abad po­lice on Satur­day ar­rested self-styled god­man Baba Prat­i­b­hanand, in con­nec­tion with the mur­der of BSP leader and busi­ness­man Deepak Bhard­waj in 2013.

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 (BSP) leader and busi­ness­man Deepak Bhard­waj in 2013.

In­ves­ti­ga­tion had re­vealed that Prat­i­b­hanand hired con­tract killers to kill Bhard­waj, the rich­est can­di­date in the 2009 Ut­tar Pradesh assem­bly polls with de­clared as­sets of nearly ₹600 crore. The ar­rest is the lat­est in the sor­did saga of ‘god­men‘ found in­volved in ghastly crimes.

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 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 ₹5 crore for Bhard­waj’s con­tract killing, out of which he had planned to cor­ner ₹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 ₹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.

Baba Prat­i­b­hanand

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