The arrest of an Indian priest when he landed at Dubai on Thursday morning and the subsequent diplomatic effort by India to secure his release on bail has become a talking point in Dubai’s Indian community. The arrested priest-turned-businessman is said to be close to senior Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) office-bearers. Some people in Dubai told the National Herald that he claimed to represent no less than the RSS chief.
While Dubai Police remained tight-lipped, it is claimed that the ‘businessman priest’ was arrested following complaints from a member of the royal family that he was misusing the family’s name to raise capital.
While influential members of Dubai’s Indian community said that the Indian Consul General himself had reached the police station to ensure his bail, the CG himself, when contacted, was evasive. He had been told that an Indian by that name had landed into some trouble, said the CG Vipul who had worked with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj before taking up his assignment in Dubai.
“He was in some trouble,” Consul General of India in Dubai, Vipul, told the National Herald but didn’t disclose the charges framed against Prabhakar. “I will need to check exact status.”
“The Consulate General of India Dubai intervened for his release as he is said to be close to the RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat,” sources revealed, adding that “Though he is out on the bail, his passport is still with the Dubai police.”
The passport that Dubai Police had confiscated (see pic) identified him as Sudhir Prabhakar Pujari and he is in formal clothes in the photograph affixed.
A frequent visitor to Dubai, his Facebook page however shows him as a priest in saffron robes. Active on the social media, he goes by the name of Mahanth Sudhir Das Pujari Maharaj. His Facebook Page also display pictures of him with RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat, Maharashtra chief minister and others.
In May 2018, he shared a video clip on Facebook and Twitter, showing his plush office in Dubai, recorded on the first working day after floating as many as three companies in the UAE, AL Boom Marine Logistic, Saraha Vision Investment and Naaz General Trading.
Prabhakar had shot into the limelight sometime in 2006-2007 when he threw open a temple at Nashik to Dalits. He was atoning for the sins of his grandfather, he confided, who as the head priest had prevented the entry of late Dr B.R. Ambedkar into the temple.
Soon enough he had joined the Bahujan Samaj Party and contested the Lok Sabha election in 2009 from Nashik as a BSP candidate and lost.
A prominent functionary of the Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP), Prabhakar has also been a member of the advisory board (margdarshak mandal) of the organisation.
On social media, he comes across as a strong BJP and Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s supporter and a Congress-basher, a cricket buff and a war-machines enthusiast. Except for Pakistan, he seems to be a staunch supporter of India’s friendship with the “Islamic world”. He also comes across as a strong votary of the abolition of special constitutional status to Jammu and Kashmir.
Incidentally, this is not the first time that he has been caught in a legal net. In December 2016, he was questioned by the Income Tax department in connection with an alleged money transfer racket in the wake of demonetisation.
Talking to ABP Majha, a Marathi News channel, he had refuted the allegations, claiming that, “I had gone to the hotel to attend a meeting after receiving a call from a close friend. The money in question (Rs 7.4 lakh) was raised through donations and is legal money in new currency notes. I have nothing to do with the money. My IT returns for the last three years are clear and I’ve submitted all the relevant documents to the department concerned.”
Prabhakar is also one of the two directors of Saraha Infrastructures (India) Private Limited Mumbai since September 2010. Additionally, he is one of the four directors of Goda Hotels and Motels Private Limited Mumbai since June 2008. (According to records with the ROC, the companies are no longer operative and had failed to submit returns for the past several years).
A post-graduate in Commerce Prabhakar had declared himself as Shri Mahant Sudhir Das Maharaj, head priest (Pujari Wada) at Sansthan Shri Kalaram Mandir, Panchvati, Nashik, in his election affidavit. He had declared total assets worth Rs 23,78,441 and no liabilities at the time.