Nepal probes ‘Buddha boy’ over devotee disappearances

‘Buddha Boy’ Ram Bahadur Bomjan, seen here in 2008, became famous after followers said he could meditate motionless for months without water, food or sleep. (AFP)
Updated 07 January 2019
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Nepal probes ‘Buddha boy’ over devotee disappearances

  • ‘The police have started investigating these complaints against Bomjan,’ a spokesman for Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau said
  • Thousands of worshippers queue for days to witness his so-called miracles of meditation deep in the jungle

KATMANDU: A Nepali spiritual leader believed by his followers to be a reincarnation of Buddha is under investigation over the disappearance of several devotees, police in Katmandu said Monday.
Ram Bahadur Bomjan, dubbed “Buddha Boy,” became famous in 2005 after followers said he could meditate motionless for months without water, food or sleep in Nepal’s jungles.
The 28-year-old guru has a devout following but has been accused of physically and sexually assaulting some of his flock.
Special police investigators have begun inquiries after the families of four of Bomjan’s devotees allegedly vanished from his ashrams.
“The police have started investigating these complaints against Bomjan,” Uma Prasad Chaturbedi, a spokesman for Nepal’s Central Investigation Bureau, said.
“The investigation is in preliminary stage and we cannot share many details.”
Bomjan has long been dogged by accusations of abuse in deeply spiritual Nepal, even as thousands of worshippers queued for days to witness his so-called miracles of meditation deep in the jungle.
In September last year, an 18-year-old nun accused the guru of raping her at one of his ashrams.
Dozens more have filed complaints against him alleging assault. The self-styled godman said he beat them for disturbing his meditation.
The Bodhi Shrawan Dharma Sangha, an organization associated with the guru, recently slammed as baseless a series of fresh allegations made by a local website, Setopati.com, which published reports detailing cases of disappearances, sexual assault and violence in his ashrams.


At least 10 dead as fire rages on Black Sea ships

Updated 48 min 34 sec ago
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At least 10 dead as fire rages on Black Sea ships

  • Twelve people were rescued from the burning vessels but there was little hope of finding any more survivors
  • The strait connects both Russian and Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea to the Black Sea

MOSCOW: Ten crew died and another 10 were missing presumed dead in a fire that broke out on two ships while they were transferring fuel in the Black Sea, Russia’s Transport Ministry said on Tuesday.
The vessels which caught fire on Monday have the same names as two Tanzania-flagged ships, the Maestro and Venice, which last year were included on a US sanctions advisory as delivering fuel to Syria.
Twelve people were rescued from the burning vessels but there was little hope of finding any more survivors, a spokesman for the Transport Ministry’s maritime unit said. The focus had switched from a rescue operation to a search for bodies, he added.
The spokesman said the vessels, which had a combined crew of 32, were still on fire and rough no attempts were being made to put out the blaze because of rough sea conditions.
Russian maritime officials said on Monday that the vessels were carrying out a ship-to-ship transfer of fuel in the Kerch Strait, which separates Crimea from Russia.
On Nov. 20 last year, the US Treasury Department added nine Russian and Iranian individuals and companies on its sanctions list for participating in the shipment of petroleum to Syria.
It also issued an advisory note warning of the potential sanctions risk for any entities involved in such shipments which listed 35 ships, including the Maestro and Venice, as having delivered oil to Syria between 2016 and 2018.
Reuters reported in December that both the Maestro and Venice continued operations after the Treasury announcement, and regularly entered Crimea’s Temryuk port, according to Refinitiv data.
In the port, liquefied petroleum gas of Russian and Kazakh origin is transferred onto tankers for export, via the Kerch Strait.
The strait, between Russian-annexed Crimea and southern Russia, connects both Russian and Ukrainian ports in the Azov Sea to the Black Sea.
In November, Russia detained three Ukrainian navy vessels and their crews in the vicinity of the strait, fueling tensions between the two countries. Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014.