Ram Bahadur Bomjon, a self-proclaimed ascetic, was apprehended by the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB) near Kathmandu on Tuesday, with NPR 3 crores 34 lakhs found at his house which included NPR 30 lakhs 92 thousand of foreign currencies of 17 different countries. CIB also found 3 motorcycle billbooks, a key to a Toyota Hilux, 20 pen drives, a voice recorder, 2 memory cards, 2 laptops, 14 mobile phones, and 5 iPads/tablets. Bomjan, a revered enigma meditating underneath trees often called the ‘Little Buddha,’ had been living a luxurious life.

Bomjan, originally from Nijgadh in Bara, had been evading authorities for nearly five years.

An arrest warrant was issued against Bomjan by the District Court, Sarlahi, for sexual abuse in February 2020.

The charges against Bomjan include murder, rape, and the disappearance of his female disciples. Five families have registered complaints against him, citing the alleged disappearance of three women and two men living in his ashrams in various districts. Authorities had been pursuing Bomjan for four years regarding these allegations, along with accusations of sexual assault on female disciples within his ashram.

In 2012, Phoolmaya Rumba, after being influenced by Bomjan during his meditation in Halkoria forest of Bara, followed him. According to her family, she has been out of contact. In a similar case, Gangamaya Tamang of Deurali said that her younger sister who went to Bamjan’s ashram in 2012 is missing. Mahendra Waiba of Hetauda said that his father Sanchalal Waiba, who had reached the ashram at Sindhuli on 27th March 2016, went missing as well.

In 2076 B.S, the police conducted raids on the Ashram in Indrawati, Sindhupalchok, and Todke Forest in Bandegaon. They suspected that Sanchalal Waiba might have been murdered there. While excavating the clay soil at a specific location within the ashram’s approximately 80 ropani area, the police discovered 9 packets of salt. Although there is suspicion that the salt may have been used to embalm the body, no further evidence has been found. In December 2018, the victims held a press conference in Kathmandu and demanded that the government show readiness to search for those who disappeared in ties to Bomjan.

Setopati’s investigation into Bomjan and his disciples unveiled the grim realities within his ashrams. Contrary to the image of spirituality on a quest for enlightenment, Bomjan’s ashrams emerged as grounds for sexual harassment and violence. Interviews with former disciples exposed a disturbing pattern of abuse and manipulation, painting a picture of an individual whose actions stand in stark contradiction to his spiritual teachings.

As the stories of the disciples’ cases are told, a pattern of disillusionment becomes evident; the actual face of Bomjan. The Bomjan case also implicates individuals associated with spiritual organizations, shedding light on potential darker facets within such institutions. An investigation has brought to light the involvement of Paneet Maharjan, President of the “Buddhist Shravan Sangh, Lalitpur,” in the registration of a Land Cruiser for Bomjan. Are some of these organizations, operating under the guise of spirituality and religion, serving as hubs for criminal activities?

As scary as it is, cult following and sexual assault have a sinister link – especially when we look at how many times it has happened. The danger of blindly following influential figures has been apparent. On December 22, 2023, Jung Myung Seok, the founder of the Christian religious cult JMS (Jesus Morning Star, also known as Providence) in South Korea, was sentenced to 23 years in prison for sexually assaulting three of his female followers between 2018 and 2021.

The late TB Joshua’s Synagogue Church of All Nations (SCOAN) in Nigeria is under heavy scrutiny, with a two-year BBC investigation uncovering a distressing pattern of physical violence, sexual assault, forced abortions, and fake “miracle healings” within the SCOAN compound. Former disciples from various countries have shared their harrowing experiences, shedding light on exploitation and manipulation despite Joshua’s global influence as a renowned televangelist.

A report by the Times of India in 2018 also unveils instances of spiritual leaders committing crimes under the guise of spirituality and religion. These cases share alarming commonalities, and we have seen the dark underbelly of seemingly revered organizations and patterns of manipulation, violence, and exploitation. Victims, often vulnerable individuals seeking spiritual guidance, recount tales of disillusionment and trauma. Victims –  misled and molested.