Check out an excellent lengthy story about a guru, Gurinder Singh Dhillon, the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) organization that he leads, and the financial scandal the Dhillon family and his close associates are connected to.
Download Gurinder Singh Dhillon — the music & film-loving Radha Soami head at heart of Fortis crisis
The reporter who wrote ThePrint story, Nandita Singh, emailed me with questions, which I responded to in writing. Unfortunately, I didn't proofread my reply closely enough and left out a word, "no," in the quote included in the final paragraph of the story, where I meant to say "no wrong."
Here's some excerpts from the story to whet your appetite to read the whole thing, which presents a balanced view of Gurinder Singh Dhillon and Radha Soami Satsang Beas. I've added "no" in brackets in the final paragraph.
Interestingly, the reporter had her phone taken away after she snapped a photo at a RSSB center, just as happened to someone else in the United Kingdom who recorded some audio at a RSSB gathering. If RSSB doesn't want to be looked upon as a cult, its members should stop acting so fanatical.
...But outside the cocoon of the Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB) ashram in Bhati, Chhatarpur, the spiritual organisation’s moral messaging is becoming increasingly hard to believe.
The century-old spiritual organisation’s head, 64-year-old Gurinder Singh Dhillon, is at the centre of one of India’s most high-profile business fiascos this year.
In October, former billionaire brothers Malvinder and Shivinder Singh, now on the verge of bankruptcy, were arrested by the Delhi Police economic offences wing (EOW) for allegedly causing a loss of Rs 2,397 crore to Religare Finvest Ltd (RFL), a subsidiary of Religare Enterprises.
Eight months prior to that, Malvinder, the embattled business tycoon and former Ranbaxy, Religare and Fortis promoter, had filed a criminal complaint against his younger brother Shivinder, claiming that he conspired with a number of close associates to siphon off Rs 2,700 crore from their family’s holding company (RHC Holdings).
The money, Malvinder alleged, was transferred into the bank accounts of “Guruji” Dhillon and his associates in the form of loans made through a complicated network of smaller corporations, and used, in part, to expand the sect’s real-estate empire.
This allegedly included the purchase of 2,60,000 sq ft of prime real estate in Delhi (near Select Citywalk Mall), 80,000 sq ft of property in Ahmedabad, 500,000 sq ft in Noida, three farmhouses in Asola, and 8,71,200 sq ft in Gurgaon, Live Mint reported.
The tale only gets murkier, with Malvinder alleging that Shivinder had an ambition to one day head the powerful RSSB. Both brothers were Friday held in contempt by the Supreme Court, in another case involving the sale of Ranbaxy to Japan’s Daiichi Sankyo.
...How is a spiritual guru related to all this? Dhillon is cousin to the Singhs’ mother, and assumed a father-like role for the boys after their own passed away in the late 1990s.
The well-connected Babaji succeeded the Singh brothers’ maternal grandfather (his uncle) to become the guru of the popular sect in 1990. He was informed about the succession after a long flight, a close associate says, while he was dressed in jeans.
After the allegations surfaced, Dhillon denied owing any money to RHC Holdings, even after the Delhi High Court ordered him and 54 other associates, including his family, to cough up Rs 6,000 crore as repayment.
But now, while maintaining his debt-free innocence, Dhillon has finally owned up to financial transactions between him and the Ranbaxy brothers.
In a 12 November affidavit, the RSSB chief finally said the Singh brothers had approached him in 2010 to buy more rights in REL. To do this, Dhillon says, the brothers spent a reported Rs 440 crore through RHC on his behalf, adding that he “would not be made liable to repay any amount or interest”.
...This isn’t the first time the RSSB has come under public scrutiny for suspected illegal activity. For years, the rapid expansion of its real-estate empire has been at the centre of land-grabbing allegations, with the Delhi Forest Department officially filing an affidavit before the National Green Tribunal in 2014.
In the 350-page affidavit, the RSSB is described as an “illegal occupant” squatting on 174.98 acres of forest land in Asola Mines, Chhatarpur — where the Bhati ashram is. Further, the Delhi Forest Department believes that the dera, along with spiritual slums that sprung up next to it, are damaging the ecology of the Delhi ridge, the lungs of a city throttled by pollution.
The RSSB denies all allegations, stating that the land was bought by them, and they were willing to furnish the paperwork when asked.
...As the success stories of Fortis Healthcare Ltd and Religare Enterprises Ltd (REL) unravel, what appears to be at the faultline of the Singhs’ fall from grace is this very interconnected network of influential kin that initially helped them, and the RSSB, grow.
“I’m strongly inclined to believe the reports in the Indian financial press that Malivinder and Shivinder trusted Gurinder (Dhillon) as a father figure and spiritual adviser. But also, a business adviser,” says Brian Hines, an American who was a member of the sect’s US community for 35 years.
“Babaji’s influence over the affairs of Religare was ubiquitous — he pulled most of the strings,” the family associate adds.
“The relationship between Malvinder, Shivinder, Sunny (Sunil Godhwani) and Babaji wasn’t a secret at all, they would constantly be together and very visibly so. In fact, everyone would say ‘Religare is Babaji’s’, says the associate.
...Even in Hine’s experience at the commune, the “RSSB is a highly top-down organisation”. “The guru makes decisions and lower-level people implement them under his close supervision,” he says.
The sewadars describe Babaji as being “someone who talks in a way that everyone can relate to… but whom you can’t access easily”, a believer in Delhi who did not want to be named says.
...“As in all religions, the true believers are fanatical,” adds Hines. “I know, because I get so many comments on my blog posts telling me I must stop writing about Gurinder because he is God and can do [no] wrong. I ignore them, of course. I’m sure journalists get the same sort of angry insults.”