Dhirendra Brahmachari’s ashram land sale sparks row

Many years after his death in an aircrash, the controversial Dhirendra Brahmachari, once touted as the Yoga Guru of former prime minister, Indira Gandhi, is in news again. Sunny Sharma finds out what is wrong with the sale deed and what the Haryana government is doing to undo the wrong done

This time it is because 24 acres of prime land in Gurugram, close to Delhi owned by the Dhirendra Brahmachari’s Aparna Ashram Society has allegedly been sold at a throwaway price to three private companies. The sale deed was executed in a hush-hush manner by the Naib Tehsildar of Wazirabad for just 55 crores.

The sale came to limelight when one Surya Prakash, the legal representative of the ashram made a representation to the Haryana Government and an inquiry was ordered. After this, an inquiry was conducted by the Gurugram divisional commissioner. There are allegations a civil judge had already restrained the members of the society from interfering in the ownership and possession of the society and yet the sale deed was executed.

Further inquiries revealed that after the controversy broke out, the then Gurugram deputy commissioner set aside the registration deed after first allowing manual registration of the same. However, the three companies moved the Punjab and Haryana High Court and the case is listed for February 15, 2021.

It is learnt that the Haryana Revenue Department has sent an official communication to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurugram noting, “On the basis of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for reaching at an agreed price, it is beyond doubt that the agreed price of the land of Aparna Ashram was 12 crore per acre, which works out to be 288 crore for 24 acres. Hence, the sale deed of 55 crore is grossly undervalued”. The deputy commissioner Yash Garg said that the DC being the registrar had passed the order to set aside the registration. He said, “We will follow the directions of the state government and the court.’’  

Officials said there were more issues in the deed that needed scrutiny. “How was the sum of 55 crore arrived at for sale of a prime piece of land? Did the managing committee of the ashram pass a resolution in this regard?’’ an official said. Officials are contemplating the ordering of attachment of the ashram land as there are multiple disputes.

Deputy Chief Minister, Haryana, Dushyant Chautala who holds Revenue Department said, “We can cancel the registration of the sale deed if there is an evasion of stamp duty due to under valuation of the property and execution of the sale agreement despite orders of the civil court.”

Recalling Yoga Guru

Old timers recall that being the yoga guru of the most powerful prime minister of that era, the Brahmachari enjoyed astonishing political clout and besides properties in Delhi, Gurgaon now renamed, Udhampur in Rajasthan and in Jammu and Kashmir. In addition, he had a fleet of his own aircraft that included a 4-seater Cessna, a 19-seater Dornier and Maule-5. He had three personal airstrips — one in Silokra near Palam, and three private hangars.

He had built airstrips and helipads at Katra and Mantalai. Brahmachari died in June 1994 when his microlight aircraft crashed near Mantalai. He was a man of infinite contradictions-a mystic with many faces, a man with no official standing but awesome power. It was virtually impossible to pin-point Dhirendra Brahmachari’s exact status. On any given morning, his tall, stately figure can be seen striding down the paved pathways of 1 Safdarjang Road, the then prime minister’s official residence .

Brahmachari’s meteoric rise to prominence ran parallel with Indira Gandhi’s. He originally started giving yoga instructions in a rented house in New Delhi’s Defence Colony in the early ‘1960s. But in 1969 he was given another 3.3 acre plot on the same road for starting a national institute of yoga.

The acquisition of his Maulle-5 aircraft which he had maintained had been given as a donation had led to the Central Bureau of Investigation investigating that Brahmachari bought the aircraft and paid for it in US dollars. However, it was the Shah Commission that probed deeper into Swami’s real estate assets. Four major cases were launched against him by the Shah Commission — illegal import of an aircraft: embezzlement of 1.68 lakh from the Central Research Institute of Yoga; forging of documents for the import of two Mercedes Benz 300D cars ostensibly for ashram use; and one case of adultery.

The Shah Commission report based on documents stated; “Brahmachari, who has been prominently holding himself up as an instructor of yoga, was also found to be interested in business affairs with the object of dealing in aircraft. In 1973, Brahmachari floated Aparna Agro Private Limited with its registered office at A-50, Friends Colony. The Shah Commission also detailed cases where Brahmachari had used his extra-constitutional influence to get bureaucrats transferred for refusing to cooperate with him. One such case publicised in the hearings was the evidence given by N.K. Singh, the then special assistant to Commerce Minister D.P. Chattopadhaya. Singh deposed that Brahmachari “boasted that he had T. P. Singh (former secretary. Finance) removed from his post because he did not oblige Brahmachari in getting a plot of land in which the Brahmachari was interested”.

In its concluding statement, the Shah Commission noted that “the apparently effortless manner in which Brahmachari was able to compel the officials of ministry after ministry stand out as a classic example of how an entire administrative system can be subverted by an errant individual if only he has the right contacts in the right place”.

 Brahmachari (1924-94) was a yoga guru to former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. He was a known influencer in the decision-making process of the central government under Gandhi. He had opened yoga training institutes in Jammu and Delhi, benefitting from his proximity to the late PM in getting prime land.  Brahmachari was accused of smuggling an aircraft from the United States during the imposition of Emergency, without paying custom duty. He was also at the centre of a controversy for importing gun parts illegally from Spain for his arms factory. Known as the Flying Swami, he died in a plane crash in 1994.