By Dr. G.N.Padki
Anuradha Amarsinha Deshmukh, a 38 years married woman tours the rural and semi urban areas along with her husband, brother, son and a few relatives to exploit the gullible who believe in miracles and superstitions. She professes to have been blessed by god Somanath of Sorati. When she gets possessed by the spirit of this god, she performs miracles like producing vibuthi, sivalingas, rudraksha, sugar, kumkum etc., Sai Baba style, heals the disturbed and troubled minds, removes the spirits, ghosts and devils from the body of the possessed, cures the sick and solves their problems.
Pudhari dated 24-3-1988 announced in their Daily program column, that Anuradha Deshmukh, a devotee of god Somanath in all the four yugas, S.B.Sankanwade an Editor along with Mallikarjuna Swami Bhojkar will bless the devotees at Chandur on 25th and 26th March 1988. We got interested in the program as one of the participants 'Mallikarjuna Swami' was connected with a rape case that was going on in the Sangli District Court.
Myself and my brother S.N.Padki a magician, as organisers of the Andhashraddha Nirmulan Samiti at Italkaranji and Gopal Kulkarni a press reporter left for Chandur on 25-3-88 to investigate their acitivity. Anuradha, the god-woman was staying in a house near Mahadeo Temple. This small village had a festive look with pandals and decorations in connection with her visit.
A long queue with people from all walks of life were waiting for the darshan of the lady. The organisers were collecting Rs.11/- from each person for WORSHIP for entry and a colour photo of the god-woman was presented to the devotees.
As I demanded a cash receipt for Rs.11/- collected as entrance fee, I could not enter the room where Anuradha was exhibiting her supernatural feats.
But my brother and the press reporter got free entry through a side door as Kulkarni told the organisers that they have come to report.
Anuradha was sitting in a closed room in yogic style. She produced vibuthi for S.N.Padki and sivalinga for Kulkarni and professed that his aim will be fulfilled shortly. The organisers murmured that they were very lucky to witness the miracle.
We were anxious to find out what was the cause of this god-woman visiting such a remote village. Our enquiry lead us to Raghuram Patil who had organised the show. He went on saying that Anuradha was a real goddess, that her miracles were real, and that he had visited her ashram several times at Masale Choudhari. That if we visit his house next day we could witness the special Puja (worship) arranged at his house. That we should give wide publicity on the god-woman in the news papers. We returned back.
To face the god-woman and her tribe we needed team work, We approached Pratap Hogade the leader of Manoranjan Mandal who had organised B.Premanand's Vijnan yatra at Italkaranji in 1982. We called a press conference to seek their help. They were informed that Deshabhakta Ratnappa Kumbhar, ex-minister, Ex-M.L.A. and the Chairman of a sugar factory had the darshan of Anuradha Deshmukh in the morning and she had blessed him. Pratap Hogade contacted the local police station and requested their help next day at Chandur. On 26th he contacted the rural POLICE STATION also and they assured their cooperation.
Myself, my brother S.N.Padki, municipal councellors Pratap Hogade, Sadashiv Lokare and other members of Manoranjan Mandal, Kiran Katake, Satappa Khot, Balu Patil, Mirje Guruji, Deepak Deshpande; 3 social workers from Kolhapur Vidyan Prabodhini, Charudatta Ranadive, Lalkar Jiraje, Mahavir Chougule, along with 20 other friends left for Chandur at about 12 noon, on 26-3-1988.
Hundreds of people from all age group had gathered in front of the house of Raghunath Patil. Ladies and children were in the scorching sun waiting from 9 a.m. along with others for the darshan of Anuradha Deshmukh, the god-woman.
On the mike, Pratap Hogade announced that their aim is not to disturb their program but to investigate the supernatural powers of the god-woman. We were informed that the devotees are waiting since morning for the darshan, they should be given preference and so we will have to wait until 6 p.m. to meet the god-woman. We agreed to wait.
At about 1 p.m. some members of the god-woman came to us to tell that 2 persons from our group can meet her and have discussion for 5 minutes. They also warned us that the function there, was a private affair, and being uninvited we had no right to interfere with their private religious activities.
We protested that though the function was held in a private house, through news paper etc., they have invited the public to attend the function and collected huge sums as advertisement for a souvenir published. We informed them that we would not enter their house but would like to investigate her miracles.
On the mike the public were informed that the feats of the god-woman were only hand tricks to fool them and exploit them in the name of god.
At about 2 p.m. Anuradha Deshmukh arrived by a car. The organisers tried to chase us away. She came out from the car and told the organisers that she considers us also as her devotees and to permit us to question her. She said, "Let them ask any question, God Somanath is quite compitent to reply." They allowed us on condition that only two persons would ask the questions. By then about 1500 people surrounded our team of twenty.
Pratap Hogade started questioning:
Pratap : What is your age?
Anuradha : 38.
Pratap : Education?
Anuradha : Matric.
Pratap : Did you study science?
Anuradha : - silence -.
Pratap : In the high school, the theory of conservation is taught. It says that Matter and energy are two sides of the same coin, and they can neither be created nor destroyed. And what happens in the universe is only transformation of one matter to other matter by physical and chemical reactions.
Anuradha : Though I am a Matric, I have not studied science.
Pratap : Nothing can be produced from air as you claim you can. We can accept the concept of sleight of hand but cannot accept them as miracles.
Anuradha : At the matriculation classes we were not taught miracles, as such I have no knowledge of miracles.
Immediately after this reply, the devotees began to shout and abuse us to disturb the peace amongst the public.
Ranadive started questioning : "Let us see your miracles."
Anuradha : For miracles to happen, I need complete silence. After the regular worship of Somanath, I have to perform Japa and then only the spirit of god enters me, and I get the powers."
She expressed her inability to perform miracles in the spot. She added that as number of devotees are waiting since long for darshan our questions should be short and limited to five minutes.
Ranadive : From 9 a.m. you are out to visit your rich devotees collecting money and gifts, but now you are showing your consideration to the people who had been waiting from 9. a.m.
This question enraged the organisers and they became hot. Sadashiv Lokare rushed forward, to question. S.N.Padke standing near, tried to talk but he was pushed away.
Lokare : I am an atheist and do not believe in god. Show us your hand first empty and let us verify that they are empty and then you produce vibuthi. If you really have powers produce something that cannot be palmed after we are satisfied that your palms are emtpy.
The god-woman did not agree to this. She replied that as god Somanath has not entered her body now, she cannot perform miracles.
To this Sadashiv Lokare declared that her powers are bogus and she is fooling the people. Two devotees started arguing that they were presented with two big sivalingas. The members of the god woman started disturbing the atmosphere with abuses and stone throwing.
The god woman was standing in the middle of a big mob, silent. She was confident that the whole village was on her side except the 20 who had come to investigate her and so she asked us to continue with our questions.
Lokare was a native of that village and the people knew him. Suddenly someone from her side shouted, "See, she is now possessed by god Somanath. Spread your hands and receive vibuthi. A pinch of vibuthi and a small sivalinga was produced by her, Sai Baba style. The public were wonder struck and shouted: Somnath Ki Jai, Anuradha Mauli Ki Jai".
The organiser, Jagonda Patil and Laghonda Patil tried to impress the people by declaring that Anuradha possessed miraculous powers. Lokare refused by saying that it was a mere hand trick and not a miracle.
In the first place, the god woman had said that god's spirit would not enter her body in such a crowded place; that she has to worship first, then, japa, meditation etc., in silence when god's spirit enters her and shows miracles. Anuradha was questioned about this, as contrary to her statement she had produced vibuthi and sivalinga even in that confusion.
When our members refused to accept her powers, the situation became uncontrolable, devotees became rash and one of them took a knife. Some local leaders came forward and tried to control the mob and requested us to return back. Whatever be the provocation none of our members lost their temper, but acted in a very disciplinary way. We returned back to Ichalkaranji.
Though we were assured of police help, not a single policeman was there in sight.
At about 4 p.m. under the leadership of Pratap Hogade a 10 member delegation met Shri Vishoi, the rural Dy. S.P. to explain the happening at Chandur.
With a single sentence, "It is a matter of religious affair and so police department cannot interfere in the matter as per rules" he brushed us aside.
S.N.Padki put forward his reason: If a person is injured or murdered, it is a criminal offence and the police have to act. But if a person is killed in a temple under the religious practises like Human Sacrifice, or Sati, doesnot the police take action?
S.N.Padki demonstrated the trick of producing vibuthi from empty hands and explained the trick behind it. The Dy. S.P. agreed to look to the rule books as to how this menace of public exploitation through tricks as miracles could be contained.
At 5 p.m. a press conference also was called for, S.N.Padki demonstrated the trick of producing vibuthi from nowhere, tasting sweet or bitter when he touched anything; paper transformed into a currency note etc. We informed them of our challenge of Rs. one lakh who proves their supernatural powers as per the conditions of the challenge.
Tarun Bharat of Pune dated 1-4-1988 published a false news that the god woman really produced from nowhere Vibuthi and sivalinga which were witnessed by the press reporters and the public chased away the members of the Andha Shraddha Nirmulan Samiti.
It was later found that the reporter of Tarun Bharat approached the lady for solution to his own problems and he was given vibuthi and asked to visit Masale Chaudhari on New moon days thrice. Local news papers flashed the news according to their points of view.
We contacted Dr. Narendra Dabholkar at Satara and he issued a press statement. Press conferences were conducted at Poona and Ichalkaranji twice on our challenge and a registered letter was sent by Dr. Dabholkar to Anuradha Deshmukh challenging her to prove her powers.
On 25-5-1988 as per the announcement in one newspaper she had accepted the challenge and asked the ANS members to come to Masale Choudhari, but on her own terms and conditions. A registered letter was again sent to her with our conditions which she has to fulfill on scientific basis. Till this time nothing is heard which proves beyond doubt that she is a hoax. Now we have to consider legal action against her.
Anuradha Deshmukh producing Vibuthi to her brother for handing over to the devotee in Gandhi cap.
Anuradha Deshmukh being questioned by the Rationalists. Devotees and the mob more than two thousand watching.
From right: Anuradha Deshmukh, her brother, Mallikarjuna Swami of Bhojkar and the Devotee.
An interview with Raghunath Patil
Raghunath Patil's daughter got married to a rich person working in an Arab country. After marriage he left for the Arab country leaving her at his father's residence, in Belgaum District. Because of the harrassment meted out to her at her father-in-law's house she became ill physically and mentally. She was ordered to bring forty thousand rupees if she was to remain in her father-in-law's house. As Raghunath Patil ws not able to meet this demand, she was sent to her father's house.
Her illness aggravated and the local treatment did not bring any relief. At last she was admitted in the Miraj Mission Hospital.
One day a person contacted Patil and enquired about his problems. He came out with his long story. After hearing the story, the person said that he was also facing the same problem and he also had admitted his daughter in the Mission Hospital but without any relief. One day some one had advised him about Anuradha Deshmukh of Masale Chaudhari and her blessings had given him the relief.
After hearing this, Raghunath Patil visited the god-woman. She immediately predicted that he had come with two problems, out of which one would be solved within 10 days and the other would take some time. She also produced vibuthi for him. His first problem was solved. He got elected in the local society election. Thus the faith on the god-woman became firm.
When he met her second time he explained to her his second problem. She suddenly went into the possession state, and prophesied that it was due to some evil power it had happened. To over come this she has to do puja (worship) at his house. For the present she asked him to apply the vibuthi she had produced daily and continue the medical treatment. Though she was invited to Chandur, she replied, "Not now, she is busy."
Due to Raghunath's publicity, hundreds of people of that locality visited the god-woman on every new moon day.
Atlast she agreed to visit Patil's house on condition that a wide publicity would be made on her visit, all relatives, and friends would be invited for the function, that religious talks would be arranged at night. Maha Puja also will be conducted. Free meals would be arranged for the visitors, and a special souvenir would be published in commemoration of her visit. He agreed to all the terms to get his daughter's problem solved. He collected lots of advertisements for the souvenir.
He also informed us that it was a cover story in a Marathi Weekly "SHREE" on Anuradha Deshmukh which strengthened his faith.
It is alleged that during the short stay of 2 1/2 days at Chandur Anuradha Deshmukh could pocket more than fifty thousand rupees apart from other gifts. A Trust is said to have been floated by her and it is claimed that she is constructing a Somanath Temple at Masale Chaudhari. Every New moon day, thousands of people visit her, and they include, ministers, M.L.A.'s, educationists, engineers, scientists, doctors etc.
This is a plain cheating under the garb of religion. We have lodged a complaint against this hoax with the Superintendent of Police, Kolhapur and Sholapur, but no action seems to have been taken by them.
I am sending a copy of this article to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra for comments and also to the Police departments as to what they would take against such frauds in religious garb.
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Last update: 27August 1998