The faith, fear and fiefdom of Bageshwar Baba

Beyond its national fame and meteoric rise, Dhirendra Shastri’s seat of power is marred with allegations of fraud and lawlessness.

WrittenBy:Prateek Goyal
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It could have been just a breezy midnight in the sleepy village of Gadha in Madhya Pradesh’s Chhatarpur. But Santosh Singh remembers how he was forced to run home, after failing to save his ancestral land – housing many shops – allegedly from the fury of bulldozers and a mob. 

Singh says he lost 27 shops that night on November 4 last year, despite a court order directing status quo on the land weeks ago. 

At the centre of that plot was the Bageshwar Dham, whose chief Dhirendra Shastri was more recently in the news for allegedly fleeing a challenge by an anti-superstition organisation. The bulldozers on Singh’s land were allegedly driven by supporters of Shastri, who was eyeing a territorial expansion befitting his seat of power. Shastri, after all, had seen a meteoric rise over the last few years, growing from an ordinary priest to a powerful “godman”, with appearances on television, proximity to power, and a reputation as a “divine” healer.

“Shastri’s people brought bulldozers that night and broke 27 of our shops. We had rented out the shops. The temple of Bageshwar Dham is in the middle of our land. Shastri had to increase the perimeter…we staged a sit-in at the collectorate for six days but nobody listened to us. Shastri has clout. His relatives and servants are bullies,” alleges Singh, a 26-year-old resident of Gadha village.

It wasn’t entirely sudden. Just weeks ago, there was a similar attempt to allegedly encroach on Singh’s land, and a court of a first class judicial

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