Swami Kaleshwar Gets Comeuppance

From The Hindu, South India's biggest newspaper, May 7, 2002. For a reply from his people, see Reply.

Fact-finding panel demands action against self-styled godman

By Our Staff Reporter

ANANTAPUR MAY 6. The fact-finding committee of civil rights bodies, which went into the allegations against Kaleshwar Swamy alias Kali, a self-proclaimed godman of Penukonda, has issued an open letter to the Assembly and Parliament Members of the ruling party from the district and the District Collector seeking action in the matter.

In the letter released at a press conference here last evening, M. Geyanand of JVV, Rasool of Human Rights forum and representatives of other bodies expressed concern at the lack of response of the District Collector, Somesh Kumar, the Minister from the district, N. Kistappa, and the Assembly and Parliament Members of the ruling TDP in the district over the issue of alleged illegal activities of Kaleshwar and his ashram.

They said the issue was being talked about all over the district but responsible officers and elected representatives were ignoring it. Several illegal activities of Kaleshwar were brought to light along with evidence but there was no necessary action according to law from those who were concerned. Reiterating their charges the fact-finding panel members said that Kaleshwar of Bukkapatnam had set up his ashram at the feet of the Penukonda fort and the adjoining `Gaganmahal', a historical construction belonging to the Vijayanagar era. The activities of Kaleshwar during the last five years included deceiving people in the name of unearthing a hidden treasure and identifying such a treasure at historical wells, temples, graves and choultries during nights with the help of a team from Poland and metal detectors and unearthing it, they alleged.

Besides smuggling of ancient idols, jewellery and diamonds, hawala, running fake currency racket, sale of narcotics, business of blue films among others also comprised his major activities during the last five years, they charged. A group of persons also used to help Kaleshwar but they later kept away.

Kaleshwar had donned the garb of a godman to safeguard his illegal activities, they alleged. According to a plan to unearth `hidden treasure' he had also encroached upon historic constructions and precious lands. Initially, he had even taken on lease illegally the lands belonging to two temples in survey numbers 394(2) and 295(4). Later, the Endowments Commissioner, Ajay Kallam, sold the land legally to Kaleshwar on the suggestion of the District Collector.

Both the Commissioner of Endowments and the Minister concerned had openly claimed that the land was sold to Kaleshwar only on the advice of the Collector. Kaleshwar's efforts to encroach upon the 700-year-old Palakeri well were resisted by the people of Penukonda. Kaleswar also encroached upon other historical constructions like Gaganmahal, Thimmarusu Jail, Uyyala Gopuram and Panchbeebi Darga, the fact-finding panel members charged.

The district Collector had sanctioned Government funds for laying a road to the ashram from the encroached land. However, the district administration washed off its hands of the matter by sending a nominal report to the Government, even after the illegal activities of Kaleshwar were published in newspapers along with evidence, they noted. the Revenue and Endowments Departments had also sent reports ''identifying the need to protect historical constructions by the Archaeological Department''.

The fact-finding committee sought to know whether the Collector, who used to visit the Kali Ashram every alternate day till the issue blew into a controversy, did not know about Kali's encroachments and illegal activities.

There are no accounts for the income and expenditure of the ashram as the properties there were either registered on Kali's name or on the names of his family members. Financial irregularities like violation of foreign exchange regulations and income tax evasion also need to be answered, the committee said. Besides, non-registration of the ashram under Cooperative Unions Act or as trust was also questionable.

The fact-finding committee further sought to know why Kali was not arrested so far in spite of criminal cases book against him, whether the Collector was believing that no irregularities were committed by Kali and why the report sought by Chief Minister's secretary, S.V. Prasad, was not sent with the details of irregularities so far.

Submitted by a visitor who implied some other rumours as well. The fact that Kaleshwar's website seems to have disappeared lends credence to rumour and allegation. [Update: website is back but there is no program.]

It is interesting to note that Swami Kaleshwar claimed many so-called miracles, something which usually disposes me to skepticism, if not cynicism, but i managed to override this tendency and give him a relatively good rating because i somehow liked the look of him. As far as i can tell, this came partly from a desire to give Devotional types a break, as i had been chided a number of times for not valuing them high enough, and to be sure, i do not have much affinity with that approach.

Wrong wrong wrong! Ah well . . . 
Now that the site is back, his listing is back, with rating still lower than it was but higher than the i promised after the first flush of disappointment. Stay tuned!

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