Millennium Post

The wealth of the 'Indian Rasputin'

Godmen are trespassers into the domain of any secular polity. Small wonder, the most powerful trespasser of them in the annals of the Indian parliamentary democracy was Swami Dhirendra Brahmachari who emerged, somewhat virulently, during the Emergency. He amassed fabulous wealth, including properties acquired forcibly in the name of the dubious trusts that he ran like a King Canute. Among them were Vishwayatan Yogashram, now the Morarji Desai National Institute of Yoga near Gol Dak Khana in New Delhi, the Aparna Ashram at Mantalai in Jammu and Kashmir and in Friends Colony in New Delhi. The assets/properties of public charitable trusts should vest in the state in the absence of any order set up by the main and, in his case, the only Trustee. 

The yogi, whose real name was Dhirendra Sharma, was born in Madhubani district in 1925 and became a dealer in used military jeeps. Brand new jeeps used to be declared condemned and sold to the single bidder – Brahmachari - in auction at incredibly low prices. He earned one crore of rupees in those days when jeeps used to become scarce during elections. They were also used for various other criminal activities. In fact, then his livelihood in the main was sale of these jeeps. Interestingly, he also partly owned an arms manufacturing concern, Shiva Gun Factory, in Jammu. 

According to another report, he was a resident of village Chanpura near Madhubani and his real name was Dhir Chandra Chaudhary, son of Bam Bhol Chaudhary. He had left his village when he was only of 14-15 years old and his whereabouts were not known for a long time. His family members and fellow villagers had reconciled to the thought that he must have died. But one Parmanand Chaudhary of Chanpura, who later became the principal of Danapur College, identified him at the New Delhi Railway Station.

The dubious god-man indulged in numerous misdeeds and illegal transactions – thanks to his proximity to then Prime Minster Indira Gandhi and her son Sanjay Gandhi. This came into the open due to the Shah Commission constituted by the Janata Government in 1977 to go into the excesses committed  during the Emergency, with justice J C Shah,  the former chief justice of India as the chairman. Among the assets amassed by the yogi were an imported aircraft, perhaps Dornier, falsely declared to have been donated to evade import duties, sprawling and palatial buildings with luxuriously fitted underground chambers for deep meditation, and a private and exclusive air strip for the aircraft within the Aparna Ashram – besides several bank accounts in India and abroad. His ashram at Mantalai was spread over 1008 kanals of land with private air strips, a hangar, a zoo and a seven-storeyed building at Gandhi Nagar, Mantalai Jammu. After his death on 9 June 1994, when his private plane crashed near Mantalai, all these were looted, leaving the property in shambles. His death took place under mysterious circumstances but nobody – not even the media – questioned why no proper probe was conducted into the matter. 

The Shah Commission had indicted the union government for the grant of income tax exemption under section 80-G of the Income Tax Act in a day by the then commissioner of Income Tax, although subsequently rescinded. A fresh assessment was done after the outfit was declared ‘not a charitable trust’ due to the principled adherence to the rule book by some officials of the Indian Revenue Service. A few of them – now superannuated – told this writer that all those assets were to be taken over without compensation by the state but this was not done.

Brahmachari’s guru was Maharshi Kartikeya at the Gopal-Khera Ashram, 12 miles from Lucknow.  After studying yoga, he managed to get an invitation to visit the erstwhile Soviet Union in 1960 as a
yoga expert to train Soviet cosmonauts. Around this time the then prime minister Jawaharlal Nehru invited him to teach yoga to Indira Gandhi, who had various illnesses. The same Nehru commented previously in his own handwriting that in India, even sanyasis tend to go astray when they get money, in a file concerning a complaint against Brahmachari for misuse of funds, vetted by the then union education minister K L Srimali. Brahmachari had a close rapport with Jai Prakash Narain, Lal Bahadur Shastri and the like, all trustees of Vishwayatan Yogashram, then run as a public charitable trust. After establishing a rapport with Gandhi, he did not look back. After the dissolution of parliament by June-end in 1975 the nature of his relationship with Gandhi was a hot topic and some even branded him as 'the Indian Rasputin'.

Grapevine had it among some CPI circles in the late 1970s  that the dubious swami used to serve as an intermediary in the supply of arms and ammunition to the Soviet army during the battle against Mujahideens in Afghanistan. Who knows whether he did not act as an agent of the CIA as many arms, meant for the Soviet Army, were intercepted by the Taliban?
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