It was three days past Valentine’s Day in 2011. The self-proclaimed tantrik (master of occult) named Baba Shehzad sat in his cold dark chamber with the diffused smell of human urine, counselling a newly married couple for various troubles they’ve had lately.
Baba Shehzad was 29 years old and, at that age, he claimed to have the panacea for all ills. Beside him, there was an Indian Eagle Owl (a protected species under Schedule IV of Wildlife Protection Act) perched on a wooden stand and a human skull, which he might have easily stolen from a biology lab. However, that is the day his pursuit of alchemy ended, as the police raided his dark odorous chamber.
He was arrested for cheating a woman of Rs 51,000 and gold coins worth more than Rs 1 lakh.
The tantrik used to introduce his victims to the owl and would tell them that his pet animal would diagnose all their problems. The ‘solutions’ posited by the owl was said in a language which only tantriks could understand. “In the concerned case, the complainant was a married woman, and the tantrik intimidated her by saying that her husband was under the influence of a kaala djinn (dark spirit) and if not treated immediately, he would die soon,” said a police official. He further said that the tantrik took cash and gold for a ritual that never really happened. It never happened because the tantrik disappeared (less by occult and more by criminal intents) and stopped taking the complainant’s calls too. Finally, when his mobile number went out-of-service, the complainant reported the matter to the police.
Police then conducted raids at several places and after a week, Shehzad was arrested from the Apsara border in the north-eastern periphery of Delhi. Later, his associates, Ikram and Akbar, were arrested from their office in south-east Delhi’s Kalkaji area. With their arrest, the police claimed to have solved more than 500 cases of cheating reported in the past two years.
Shehzad also revealed that it was his uncle who started the occult business after migrating to Mumbai around 15 years ago. Shehzad had taken over from him around four years ago and soon shifted to Hyderabad. At Hyderabad, his biggest catch was a computer science graduate from Hyderabad University. From her, he had managed to take away Rs 2.5 lakh in cash and 700 grams gold, after which he left for Delhi.
From Shehzad’s possession, police recovered the Indian Eagle Owl, a gold ring, a few gold coins, some sedatives and some cash. The owl was handed over to the concerned authorities, but how the tantrik had procured the endangered species still remains a mystery, the police official added.
“Cheating is perhaps the criminal offence of the least degree that they have been involved in. In cases we have dealt with in the past five years, we have come across self-proclaimed tantriks who have molested, raped, murdered and what not. And all these cases, close enough to 300, have taken place in Delhi, mostly in the eastern, north-eastern and outer districts of Delhi,” said a police official.
For instance, around four months ago, a man in his forties, named Mohammed Mustafa, who claimed to be a tantrik, was arrested from Khajuri Khas area in north-east Delhi for the alleged rape of a 21-year-old married woman, who lived in a nearby locality. The woman, along with her husband, had gone to the tantrik after being referred to him by some friends.
The woman was troubled by nightmares. The tantrik offered her an edible potion and asked her husband to wait outside the room till the time he could ‘communicate’ with the forces beyond human understanding. After half-an-hour, he asked the husband to take the woman home and assured him that things would be all right, said a police official.
He further said, nobody knows what quantity of sedatives the tantrik had mixed in the potion. The woman gained her conscience after two days and reported feeling uneasy. She was taken to a hospital and one of her medical reports confirmed that she was raped. By the time they reported the matter to the police, Mustafa was about to flee. He was arrested from an inter-state bus terminus in the nick of time. More than a decade ago, Delhi Police had come across around a hundred cases in one year in which tantriks were involved in serious criminal offences. A research by the crime branch then revealed that almost two-third of them migrated from Meerut in Uttar Pradesh. The rest largely belonged to West Bengal and Bihar, said a senior police official. “Often we come across the names of tantriks with the suffix ‘Bangali’, but it is indeed surprising that hardly any of them can speak the language. It is perhaps, decades ago some Bengali tantrik had done some miracles and since then, fake occultists have often taken their slice of his goodwill,” the police official added.
The tantriks advertise themselves in both English and regional language newspapers. The size of the advertisement published depends upon the financial health of the tantriks. Today, their clientele is no longer confined to people from the lower income strata. Their presence can also be seen on the internet with websites acting as directories to contact them. In fact, some of them have websites of their own, said a source. “It seems like the economic reforms of the early 90s, paved way for these self-proclaimed tantriks too. Tantriks of India also advertise themselves in West Asian, African and Central American nations, where they give counselling over telephone (these days also over Skype) and take their fee in advance through money transfer facilities or payment gateways,” the source added.
Despite the presence of strict laws to curb such criminals, nothing seems to have stopped these self-proclaimed tantriks. Time and again, they have emerged with a new modus operandi and specialised in new spheres of life to trap their victims.
In fact, the crime branch of Delhi Police had recently cracked a nexus between tantriks and cheats who dupe people through lucrative ponzi schemes.
In this case, a businessman (complainant) who was suffering from heavy losses year after year visited a self-proclaimed tantrik named Baba Pratap Parcha (40). The tantrik suggested him to invest Rs 10 lakh in the business of a man named Aman, whom Pracha had supposedly seen in a state of trance. Aman, according to the tantrik, ‘exported’ certain articles to China.
The tantrik also told the complainant about the bank and account number in which the money was to be deposited. The complainant followed his advice and deposited the said amount in the mentioned account number, which was being operated by a man named Zafar Imam. When the complainant told the tanrik that the account was in the name of one Zafar Imam, the tantrik told him that it was the official named Aman, whom he had seen in his trance, and asked him to go forward with the investment, which would supposedly yield extremely high returns.
The complainant did so and ended up in the hospital when he received nothing for the first three months. Also, when he called up the tantrik, he never picked up the call. Meanwhile, when the complainant was admitted in the hospital after a cardiac arrest, Zafar Imam (alias Aman) and his wife Nigar Sultana (alias Geeta) came to visit him there, where they also met the complainant’s wife. Aman and Geeta assured the complainant that he would soon get almost double the amount he had invested.
After the complainant was discharged from the hospital, Zafar and his wife also visited him at his house quite frequently. However, the promised return on investment, and the principal amount itself, showed no signs favouring the complainant.
The complainant kept calling the tantrik, but he never answered. One day, he received a call from Zafar, who threatened him of bad consequences if he continued to bother him. The next day, when the complainant found obscene photographs of his wife – printed in large sized paper and put up outside his residence at outer Delhi’s Rohini, he approached the police.
During the investigation, the complainant’s wife told the police that around a fortnight ago she had gone to a boutique at central Delhi’s Paharganj market when she accidentally ran into Zafar. He insisted her to accompany him for a cup of coffee in a nearby restaurant. She felt unconscious after taking the coffee. Zafar then took her to a room in the same hotel where he allegedly raped her. He also allegedly took her photos and recorded a video in his mobile phone. When she regained consciousness, Zafar showed her the video and the photographs and allegedly blackmailed her.
He also threatened her of dire consequences if she reported the matter to anyone. Later he asked her to convince her husband about letting off the investment money. Zafar’s wife Nigar also helped her husband throughout, acting as an accomplice in the crime.
Police then began tracking the phone numbers and soon they reached the couple Zafar (40) and Nigar (28). After being interrogated, they told police about their arrangement with the self-proclaimed tantrik Pratap Parcha (45). Soon the police found out about Parcha’s identity and arrested him in no time, said Ravindra Yadav, Joint Commissioner of Police (Crime).