A heart-warming tale of a mother’s long-lost son returning as a monk after 22 years has, in less than a fortnight, devolved into a heart-rending story of a family being scammed.
The joy of Delhi resident Bhanumati Singh knew no bounds, and a video of her crying uncontrollably went viral, when she was reunited last month with her son Pinku, who had left home at the age of 11. She had scolded Pinku over playing too much and, in a fit of rage, he had run away from their Delhi home in 2002.
Last month, Bhanumati and her husband, Ratipal Singh, got information that an ascetic was visiting Ratipal’s native village, Kharauli in Amethi, and he bore the same scar as Pinku. His relatives – including his sister, who stays in the village – asked Ratipal and Bhanumati to rush to Kharauli and, when they reached there on January 27, the ascetic told them that he was indeed their son.
A video of the ascetic seeking alms from Bhanumati, singing folk songs about a king who left his kingdom to become a monk, went viral.
A twist followed, with a bigger twist yet to come.
Pinku told them that he had taken sanyaas (renounced earthly pleasures) and had to return to his monastery, Parasnath Math, in Jharkhand. He said his guru had told him his initiation would be complete only after he visited Ayodhya and then took alms from his family members.
The parents initially refused to let Pinku go, but realising that his heart was set on following the path he was on, eventually gave in. Villagers came together to contribute 13 quintals of foodgrain as alms and Ratipal’s sister also gave him Rs 11,000. Ratipal bought Pinku a phone and asked him to keep in touch. Pinku left the village on February 1.
After Pinku left, he began calling Ratipal and said he wanted to return to them, but people at the monastery said he couldn’t do so until he had paid them Rs 10 lakh. This, he told Ratipal, was the price a monk had to pay to return to family life.
Desperate to have his son back with the family, Ratipal sold his land in the village for Rs 11.2 lakh and then told Pinku that he would come to Jharkhand to give the money to the monastery.
According to a police official, Pinku gave several reasons – none very believable – for why Ratipal should not come to the monastery. He also began insisting that Ratipal send him the money via bank transfer or using a UPI app.
This made Ratipal suspicious and he began making enquiries, only to find that there was no Hindu monastery in Jharkhand by the name of Parasnath Math.
“On Saturday, Ratipal filed a complaint in Jais police station (in Amethi district),” said Tiloi Circle Officer Ajay Kumar Singh.
Police then found that the man masquerading as Pinku was actually someone called Nafees from Gonda village, who was trying to scam the family.
An official said further enquiries revealed that Nafees’ brother, Rashid, had posed as an ascetic and cheated a family of lakhs using nearly the same playbook in July 2021. Ravi, the son of a man named Budhiram Vishwakarma had gone missing from Sahaspura village 14 years ago and Rashid had reached the village pretending to be an ascetic. He said he was Ravi and asked for alms from Budhiram’s wife.
The family made Rashid stay with them thinking he was Ravi and then he disappeared with lakhs in cash. His true identity came to the fore when he was arrested later.
A few days before Rashid reached Sahaspura village, a relative of Nafees showed up at the house of Kallu Rajbhar in Varanasi’s Hajipur village. In an ascetic’s attire, he pretended to be Kallu’s son, who had gone missing 15 years ago.
Circle Officer Ajay Kumar Singh said, “Ratipal Singh has complained that his family gave a person grain after being told a man dressed as an ascetic was their son. He said the person is now calling him and trying to cheat him. Investigation is on.”