KESHAV P. KOIRALA
KATHMANDU: Three months ago‚ Indra Mani Kafle‚ 24‚ was preparing for PhD in Sanskrit grammar in Varanasi‚ when he received a leaflet from Swami Bishnu Prapannacharyaji Maharaj that proposed an exciting opportunity.
The leaflet‚ distributed by Shree Human Welfare Spiritual Charitable Federation of Nepal on the premises of a Nepali temple in Lalita Ghat on the banks of Ganges in Varanasi‚ talked about a 29-month religious marathon in the USA for which it was seeking 108 experts from Nepal and India.
“It was an exciting opportunity for people like me‚ so I was tempted to apply‚” says Kafle. He came all the way to Kathmandu and took along this correspondent to meet the saffron-clad swami. During the meeting at his residence in Kalanki on July 27‚ Swami Bishnu‚ who claims to be 25 years old and a resident of Gulmi‚ said a visa to enter Canada would be issued from India‚ and since International Democratic Educational Conference was sponsoring the meet‚ Nepalis didn’t need a US visa to enter USA. Swami Bishnu‚ however‚ refused to show any authoritative documents.
Kafle thought it was too good to be true‚ but many other Sanskrit students and scholars have already paid up Rs 1 lakh each for the trip. The receipts issued by the federation and signed by Swami Bishnu mention that the fee is for the “World Gita Marathon‚ April 2013 to August 2015.” The leaflet claims the federation is leading several rituals‚ including World Gita Marathon‚ in association with World Welfare Bhagawat Trust‚ IDEC and International Society for Krishna Consciousness.
He claims he has not raised a lot of money. ‘I have just raised money from several well wishers‚” he told THT. “I am working under the direction of Swami Nitya Bihari Das based in New Delhi‚ and raising funds.”He is the final authority to decide on the participants‚” he said. When contacted‚ IDEC 2013 officials said they had nothing to do with Swami Bishnu‚ his organisation or Swami Nitya Bihari Das and suspected it could be a fraud. “I have not heard of this individual’s name before and there is no relationship with the 2013 IDEC conference in Boulder whatsoever‚” Isaac Graves of the Steering Committee wrote to The Himalayan Times.
According to people who recently met him to inquire about the event‚ Swami Bishnu showed them his photographs with the VIPs and influential people at religious functions and felicitations‚ and tried to win their trust.
“Swami jee has told us that besides Rs 1 lakh here‚ we would have to pay him Rs 6 lakh each when we reach the US and start making money there‚” another student in Kathmandu said. “He has said there would be two lots of participants; people who would deposit money early would be sent to the US in the first lot and they could make at least Rs 2 lakh a month and the ones who would be in the second lot would earn up to Rs 1 lakh a month.”
Kafle is now wary of the proposal. So is Pitriraj Adhikari‚ who met the swami on behalf of his younger brother who lives in Varanasi.”Swami Bishnu said he would take 108 people to the USA without visa via Canada‚” Adhikari said. “I have discouraged my brother and his friends‚ who came all the way from Benares in the hopes of going to US‚ to pay the sum.”