The arrested monk in hospital after he complained of chest pain. Picture by Pranab Debnath
Krishnagar, Feb. 11: The president of a Nadia monastery that has branches in several countries was arrested today on the charge of infiltrating into India from Bangladesh 22 years ago and possessing fake documents.
Srila Bhakti Nirmal Acharya Maharaj, 61, had been absconding for the past year, police said in Nabadwip, where the Sri Chaitanya Saraswat Math is headquartered. His passport, voter card and other documents were found to be fake.
The monk was today remanded in 14 days’ judicial custody by a Nadia court.
District superintendent of police S.R. Mishra said: “Yesterday, we got a tip-off that he was hiding in a house in Birbhum. We arrested him today with the help of Birbhum police.”
Nirmal Acharya has been slapped with infiltration charges for now. “We will press more charges as we proceed with our probe,” a police officer said.
The search for the monk began in January last year when two members of the monastery lodged a complaint with the police saying Nirmal Acharya had sneaked into India in 1992 after being involved in several criminal activities in Bangladesh.
The monastery president’s criminal background could not be immediately verified.
After his arrest in the morning, Nirmal Acharya complained of chest pain and had to be admitted to a hospital in Nabadwip. But doctors there declared him fit to be presented in court after administering medicines.
The investigating officer in Nabadwip said the monastery president’s actual name was Bibhas Sikdar and he hailed from Patuakhali in Bangladesh.
The officer said he was also known as Nemai Das to some.
“In several places, Nirmal Acharya had produced a school leaving certificate issued by Haritala Prathamik Vidyalaya, a primary school in Nabadwip. On the certificate, the name was Nemai Das. The certificate cannot be original because it was issued in 1962, two years before the school was established,” the police officer said.
Almost a year ago, two members of the monastery — Sagar Brahmachari and Mahadeb Brahmachari — had lodged an FIR accusing Nirmal Acharya of infiltrating into India.
A few days after the complaint, Nirmal Acharya disappeared from the monastery, the police said. An acharya board, comprising six members, has been running the monastery since then.
“He is originally from Bangladesh and sneaked into India illegally in 1992. He settled in Nabadwip and obtained a fake ration card, voter ID and a passport. He claims to be a teacher and a lawyer, but that is false, too,” said Mahadeb Brahmachari, one of the complainants.
According to the investigating officer, Nirmal Acharya lived in Burdwan’s Srirampur for two years and shifted to Nabadwip in 1994. “He eventually became a disciple of Bhakti Sundar Govinda Maharaj, who was the then president of the monastery. Nirmal Acharya was declared the president of the monastery in 2009, a few days before Govinda Maharaj died,” he said.
Nirmal Acharya denied the allegations against him. “A section of monks has hatched a conspiracy to malign me as I had taken disciplinary action against them. I had also expelled some of them from the monastery,” the monk said after being produced in the court today.
Established in 1941, the monastery has 130 branches in various parts of India, the US, Canada, Mexico, and several European and Southeast Asian countries.
An estimate of its assets could not be made. The five-acre Nabadwip compound has a temple and two guesthouses for foreigners.