Saturday, March 5, 2011

Priest abducted children
Priest held for abducting kids
Tags:priest arrested for kidnapping|Hanuman MandirNEW DELHI: A 50-year-old priest has been arrested from south Delhi's Fatehpuri Beru area on Thursday night for allegedly kidnapping five minor boys. The accused, who was heading a Hanuman Mandir and Math at Budh Road near Gadaipur in Fatehpur Beri for the past 23 years, allegedly wanted to portray the boys as "child gods" in a bid to dupe his followers and earn money through donations.

Prem Dass was arrested after one of the kidnapped boys managed to make a telephone call to his uncle in Basti, a UP town around 50 kilometres away from Ayodhya. The other four kids include the two children- aged 15 and 13 - of Dass' own brother living in Sultanganj, UP. Two other kids - both 12 years old - belong to Bisoni and Bhagalpur of Bihar. Except for the boy from Basti, no other kid has completed primary education.

Dass, who hails from Bhagalpur, was apprehended following investigation after the boy in Basti went missing. "Dass was very ambitious and wanted to get rich by setting up his own ashrams but due to his poor economic condition, he could not do so. He felt that if his ashrams have 'child gods' to head them, devotees will make a beeline since they will be impressed with kids and their devotion at such a tender age. He planned to take the lion's share of the devotees donations for himself, all the while projecting himself as the "dharma guru" of the kids," said H G S Dhaliwal, DCP (south).

Dhaliwal said the accused dressed up the boys in saffron robes and continuously "indoctrinated and influenced" to make sure that no outsider suspect he kidnapped the boys and that the children live in an atmosphere where they act and behave like "gods".

"He brought the children to Delhi by promising them better education and a life of excesses. Once in city, he held them captive," said Dhaliwal. Police said that the boy from Bhagalpur was brought to Delhi by Dass in July 2010 with a promise of providing good education and better life to him. In Delhi, he was made to work in the temple. Two brothers, when they were rescued, were in a priest's attire.

Investigating officer Anil Sharma said Dass was "greatly" influenced by the success a few religious ashrams that receive huge amount of donations from devotees. Since he hailed from Bhagalpur district but knew UP well, he was planning to set up base in religious sites like Ayodha, Varanasi and Mathura. "It is strange that he took under his fold those children who never studied Sanskrit. He did enroll his brother's children in school, but the thrust was to train them as godman,'' said the investigator.

Dass came to Delhi in 1985 and worked as a priest in a local temple of Jaunapur. Three years later, he established a small temple in Gadaipur. Following mushrooming of farmhouses in the area, he started getting rich devotees. The cops, though, are yet to ascertain how a "poor man" from Bihar could build a Math with seven rooms. "We are investigating the ownership of the land and whether Dass owns other properties in UP, especially in Ayodha," said an investigator.

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