In an apparent suicide, spiritual leader Bhaiyyuji Maharaj was on Tuesday found dead with a gunshot wound in his temple at his Silver Spring Colony residence in Indore. In a short note believed to be left behind by him, Bhaiyyuji talked about stress and being fed up with life, but did not spell out a reason for the same.
The 50-year-old was a former model and worked as a marketing executive before taking to preaching, a calling that gave him immense clout and a following cutting across political lines, mostly in Madhya Pradesh and Maharashtra. It was Bhaiyyuji who mediated between Anna Hazare and the UPA government during his anti-corruption fast in 2011 in Delhi and was also invited to break then Gujarat chief minister Narendra Modi’s fast the same year.
Bhaiyyuji appears to have been active on Twitter minutes before he is said to have shot himself with a pistol.
Bhaiyyuji Maharaj’s alleged suicide noteFamily members and aides have told police that about 15 minutes after noon, they heard a gunshot from Bhaiyyuji’s room. They say they tried to get into his room and the adjacent one, but he did not respond despite several knocks. When the door was broken open, he was found with a bullet wound in the temple.
Police said Bhaiyyuji was rushed to Bombay Hospital in the city, where he was declared dead.
Indore DIG Harinarayanchari Mishra said there were half a dozen people at home, including Bhaiyyuji’s wife and mother, at the time of the incident. Mishra said a suicide note, written in English and talking of “stress”, and a pistol were recovered from the room. The note, as per police, said: “Somebody should be there to handle duties of family. I am leaving to (too) much stressed out, fed up.”
Earlier the DIG told The Indian Express that family dispute was the probable reason behind the suspected suicide.
Investigators have ruled out foul play.
The Congress, however, demanded a high-level probe into the suicide. Party spokesman Manak Agarwal claimed that ever since Bhaiyyuji refused to accept the perks that came with a minister of state status given to him by the state government recently, people linked to the BJP had been putting pressure on him to work for the party. Leader of Opposition Ajay Singh said Bhaiyyuji’s last Facebook posts gave no indication he was stressed.
Bhaiyyuji had lost his wife Madhvi, who belonged to Aurangabad in Maharashtra, in 2015. After publicly talking about taking sanyas, he had married a much younger disciple, Dr Ayushi Sharma, in April 2017, taking his followers by surprise. He had said he was marrying for the second time because he had a young daughter. Now a teenager who studies in Pune, the daughter was reportedly unhappy with his decision to remarry and there was talk about dispute over his property.
Bhaiyyuji had courted another controversy when, in 2017, a Mumbai-based woman had accused him of “dumping” her. She had written a book on him after visiting him in Indore, but he had distanced himself from her.
Bhaiyyuji was born ‘Uday Singh Deshmukh’ to a family with a lot of landholding, in Shujalpur, Madhya Pradesh, in 1968, and worked in a private company and modelled for clothes. Unlike other preachers, he remained married when he adopted his new role, and lived with his wife and daughter. He was known for driving expensive cars and leading a lavish lifestyle, neither of which impacted his following.
The Shri Sadguru Datt Dharmik Evam Parmarthik Trust that he formed in Indore was the headquarters of his spiritual activities, and he conducted his activities from a sprawling ashram at Bapat Square in Indore. Over time he also took to development, agriculture and educational activities in Maharashtra and Madhya Pradesh. One of the areas of his work was stopping suicides by farmers. He used to occasionally appear on religious shows of regional television channels.
In April, he was among the five spiritual figures and saints to be offered MoS status by the state government. After there were allegations that two of the saints had got the Shivraj Singh Chouhan government to give that position, in lieu of dropping a yatra to expose corruption in planting of saplings along the Narmada, Bhaiyyuji had declined perks like car and house that go with the MoS status.
In 2016, the spiritual leader had been miffed with the Madhya Pradesh government after he was not invited to an event held in Indore ahead of the grand Simhasta Kumbha held in Ujjain. He had said the wasteful expenditure on the event was not justified. There had also been reports of him planning to convert to Buddhism, but he had denied the same. Chief Minister Chouhan had later called on him.
Soon after, Bhaiyyuji and his followers had claimed that his car was attacked by stone-pelters in Pune, where he had gone to meet his daughter, for calling expenditure on the religious function “wasteful”.