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Two of 9 shamans booked for ‘cheating’ family arrested

One of the accused is a tailor by profession, who took Rs 4 lakh for a ritual to turn the fortunes of the family of Narendra Soni (58) who died after consuming poison-laced drink, and later declared himself “dead”. A local court Friday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of five other shamans who are accused in the case.

By: Express News Service | Vadodara |
Updated: March 13, 2021 3:16:17 am
Vadodara policeAccording to officers of the Sama police station, who are investigating the case, eight shamans who “duped” the family are linked to Vadodara based Hemant Joshi, who “recommended” them and is absconding. Joshi, police said, operates by placing advertisements in local newspapers about his skills at resolving people’s issues.

Vadodara police on Friday arrested two of the nine shamans booked for allegedly cheating a family of six from Sama area of Vadodara that attempted mass suicide on March 3, leading to the death of five of them, from two locations in Rajasthan.

One of the accused is a tailor by profession, who took Rs 4 lakh for a ritual to turn the fortunes of the family of Narendra Soni (58) who died after consuming poison-laced drink, and later declared himself “dead”. A local court Friday rejected the anticipatory bail plea of five other shamans who are accused in the case.

The two accused have been identified as Gajendra Bhargav, arrested from Khinchar village of Nagra taluka of Rajasthan and Sitaram Bhargav alias Sahil Vohra from Kuchera village.

According to officers of the Sama police station, who are investigating the case, eight shamans who “duped” the family are linked to Vadodara based Hemant Joshi, who “recommended” them and is absconding. Joshi, police said, operates by placing advertisements in local newspapers about his skills at resolving people’s issues.

Deputy Commissioner of Police, Zone 4, Lakhdhirsinh Zala said, “Joshi introduced the family to his brother-in-law, Gajendra Bhargav, who took Rs 4 lakh from Sonis to eradicate their ‘bad luck’ and remove evil spirits from their house. Later, he did not turn up for the rituals and the family contacted Joshi. He told them that Gajendra had passed away and that he would recommend another astrologer. He then brought Sitaram Bhargav. Sitaram took another Rs 3.5 lakh from the family, promising a pot of ancient silver coins.”

Zala said that Joshi had gathered that the Sonis were desperate due to disillusionment in their failing business and decided to fleece them. “Bhavin Soni, who passed away on Sunday, told us that his father Narendra Soni was completely influenced by such beliefs after consecutive failures in his business since 2015 and did not pay heed to any other family member in the matter.”

On Friday, a local court rejected the anticipatory bail plea of five others, including Joshi, who are accused in the case.

The police filed an FIR against the nine accused under IPC sections 405 for criminal breach of trust, 420 cheating and 114 for abettor present when the offence is committed. Bhavin, in his statement, said that his father planned the mass suicide of the family and even force-fed his three-year-old son, Parth, the pesticide-laced drink by his milk bottle. According to him, the family had acquired loans to meet the expenditures of the rituals recommended by the shamans as well as their daily needs.

Police said the family had taken around Rs 23 lakh from a prospective buyer of their house as “intention of sale” agreement but failed to execute the actual sale deed because the money was spent on the rituals instead of repaying the debt to free the property from mortgage. Narendra Soni, who died on the spot after consuming the poison-laced drink, has been booked for culpable homicide amounting to murder.

Bhavin’s wife Urvi, the only surviving member, is on ventilator support at Vadodara’s SSG Hospital. The police teams have fanned out to Rajasthan and Madhya Pradesh to track the remaining accused in the case.

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