|CURRENT ISSUE DECEMBER 13, 2004|
|SOCIETY & THE ARTS: KALKI CULT|
|Materialistic Spiritualism |
The cult of Kalki is in the spotlight as the self-proclaimed Bhagwan and his family face serious charges of financial mismanagement, raising question marks about its credibility
|By Arun Ram|
Last month, Citilights, an upcoming high-class apartment building firm operating in Bangalore and Chennai, advertised the bhoomi puja for their new venture, a 420-apartment complex in Mogappair, Chennai. Interested buyers were told that the project was getting the most auspicious beginning since the bhoomi puja would be done by-hold your breath-God.
Then there was a last minute change. Kalki Bhagwan, the self-proclaimed God among India's godmen, didn't conduct the puja. Citilights, believed to be the Indian wing of the Los Angeles-based Advanced Development & Investments Inc (ADI), called off even the press conference scheduled to announce the project. What happened in between was an investigation by India Today into the business links of the Kalki family. The probe, a follow-up of a story that this magazine carried ("Cult in Crisis", June 17, 2002), also stumbled upon alleged links between the Kalki family and Ajit Mithaiwala, an international businessman, who happens to be the managing director of ADI.
When repeated requests for personal interviews with Kalki and his businessman-son N.K.V. Krishna were turned down, India Today sent questionnaires to them. The Kalki family's response came in the form of an injunction petition in the Bombay High Court seeking to stall this story. The court upheld India Today's right to publish the story. And here is the story.
Controversy is nothing new to V. Vijayakumar, a former clerk with the LIC, who proclaimed himself as Kalki, the 10th incarnation of Lord Vishnu, in 1989. Vijayakumar, who called himself Bhagwan, shared his halo of divinity with his wife Padmavathi by bestowing upon her the title of Bhagwati. The setting was just right when the "holy" couple's only son Krishna took to an array of businesses. The cult floated several trusts in the name of spiritualism and rural development and collected crores of rupees.
The Income Tax Department granted tax exemptions to these trusts under Section 12 AA and 80 G of the Income Tax Act.
Stories of miracles, theories of nirvana and flow of money saw the Kalki cult's high-rise in the spiritual supermarket. Serious allegations against the Kalki cult came out in December 2002, following the publication of the story in India Today, when social activist Vishwanath Swami initiated a PIL in the Madras High Court. Swami, who worked with Vijayakumar in a school in Rajupeta village of Andhra Pradesh in the mid-1980s and has known him for two decades, appealed for investigations into the affairs of Vijayakumar and his relatives and their trusts under the IPC, Income Tax Act and Foreign Contributions Regulations Act (FCRA).
The Madras High Court, in its order dated September 8, 2003, dismissed the petition, saying "the authorities are alive to the situation and it is for them to take further action". Swami approached the Supreme Court of India, which while dismissing the petition said the petitioner could again approach the Madras High Court.
With a collection of "new evidences", Swami is all set for another round of legal battle, which could put the Kalki cult in a spot again.
"My questions are simple," says Swami. "Where does all the money collected by the Kalki trusts go? Why is it that not a single house has been constructed for the poor when crores of rupees are collected by these trusts in the name of rural housing? How does Krishna's empire expand? A thorough inquiry by cbi and it officials will reveal the answers."
Villagers of Rajupeta and Varadaiahpalem (two Kalki bases) have given sworn affidavits that the Kalki trusts have done no rural development despite collecting huge donations.
The Kalki Trust for Rural Service, which enjoys tax exemption, showed receipts-and payments-of more than Rs 1.4 crore in 2001-2. Of the payments, only a little more than Rs 5.5 lakh is mentioned to be for rural services, while more than Rs 2.3 lakh was shown as telephone expenses. Says V. Bhaskar, a resident of Govardhanapuram village in Varadaiahpalem: "He (Kalki) has been collecting huge funds, but he has not constructed even a single house or a hospital or a school for the rural poor. We reliably learnt that all the funds collected by Kalki under the pretext of rural development is being misused and misappropriated by him and his associates." Bhaskar's ire is understandable, for he sees the multi-crore rupee Golden City coming up in his neighbourhood as the headquarters of the Kalki cult.
Documents available with India Today show that the earnings of Kalki, his son Krishna and daughter-in-law K. Preetha have indeed gone up. Preetha, who first filed her income tax returns for the year 1993-94, had then shown an income of Rs 42,731. For the assessment year 2002-3, she has shown an income of Rs 66,000 as salary and another Rs 2,81,000 as agricultural income.
As on March 2003, Preetha owned a residential property in Chennai, 14 plots of agricultural land spread over 36 acres and an urban land of 4,815 sq ft. She also owned two lorries, 1,012 g of gold valued at Rs 4,31,112 and eight carats of diamond valued at Rs 96,000, besides 9 kg of silver worth Rs 70,875.
Krishna, who was first assessed for income tax in 1998-99, showed an income of Rs 95,108. When he filed his returns for the year 2002-3, his income had gone up to Rs 4,50,028. As on March 2002, Krishna owned three business ventures and was director of 11 companies, most of them named "Kosmic". He also owns three cars-a Mahindra Ford, a Honda Domani and a Tata Sumo-a lorry and a two-wheeler. His jewellery includes 836 g of gold valued at Rs 3,56,136, six carats of diamond valued at Rs 72,000 and silver articles worth Rs 47,250. He also owns three plots of agricultural land of more than 40 acres and a 4,815-sq ft land in Thiruvanmiyar, Chennai.
Vijayakumar, who showed "nil" income in 2001-2, showed an income of Rs 22,264 as bank interest the next year. While only a full-fledged inquiry by the Income Tax Department would prove or disprove Swami's allegation that Vijayakumar has been pumping in public-donated money into his son's business, at least two documents available with India Today prove that the godman was particularly fond of his son.
Soon after filing his "nil returns" on March 20, 2002, Vijayakumar has written a letter to the Income Tax Officer, Chittoor, on March 26, 2002. It says he had received cash and cheques from his "admirers" during the assessment year, to be utilised for the Public Charitable Trust which was under formation at that time. "Out of this," he says, "Rs 1,80,83,504 was handed over to Sri Bhagavan Seva Trust towards fulfilling its charitable objects, for the purpose of construction of residential accommodations for the Acharyas (his disciples) and also for the benefit of the general public." What the godman didn't say is that Sri Bhagavan Seva Trust comprises just two people-his son Krishna as the managing trustee and his wife Preetha as a trustee. Again, another Rs 22,15,232 was transferred to the same trust the next year. Here, Vijayakumar himself admits that "a sum of Rs 88,98,000 was gifted to my son N.K.V. Krishna, so that he can better utilise this amount for charitable purposes".
If Swami is to be believed, Krishna is not doing charity when he speaks business with Mithaiwala, who promotes the Citilights constructions in Bangalore and Chennai.
Swami says he would produce before a court of law such clinching evidences as audiotapes of conversations between Krishna and Mithaiwala, in which business worth crores of rupees was discussed. Swami also claims to be in possession of documents that show Mithaiwala's daughter Jannki Mithaiwala financially supporting Krishna.
Mithaiwala, to whom India Today spoke over the phone, denied any business links with the Kalki family. "Kalki Bhagwan is my spiritual guru and, like many other services I do, I have supported him," Mithaiwala said.
As for his daughter opening an FCNR account in an Indian bank over which Krishna was allegedly given an overdrawing facility, Mithaiwala would only say, "It is her money. I cannot say what and on whom she spends it for."
On whether he had any direct links with Krishna, Mithaiwala replied that he saw Krishna as a spiritual guide.
Swami, meanwhile, is making serious allegations, including hawala deals between the Kalki family members and international operators. As Vijayakumar and Krishna refuse to reply to India Today's repeated mails and communication, only another legal duel may bring out Kalki's defence.
And that could prove a tiresome effort to the cult, which is fast growing with its oxymoronic USP of materialistic spiritualism.