Pushpa Pandey, her son and Kaliram Chaudhari – the victims recount their stories of how they were conned by fake Maata (godwoman) Radha Khatri, who fled Ghorahi recently after swindling dozens of people out of hundreds of thousands of rupees. Photo: Devendra Basnet/ Republica
DANG, Oct 2: Pushpa Pandey of Nawalpur, Ghorahi, never trusted a fortune teller and faith healer as deeply as she trusted one Radha Khatri who lived in Ghorahi until recently. Pandey’s connection with Khatri was due to the disturbing situation at her home – her three grown-up sons would fall ill from time to time. Her neighbors told Pandey to go to Khatri, claiming that the latter had spiritual powers to heal and change misfortune. Khatri, well known as a 'Maata' (godwoman), had rented a room in Ghorahi that would be crowded with desperate people like Pandey all the time.
"She would tell anyone that she'd solve their problems. She told me too that I needed to perform certain rituals for my troubles to disappear," said Pandey, whose two sons are employed in Nepal while the other one lived abroad and came home recently as advised by the godwoman. "She first told me that our dead ancestors needed to be satisfied through some puja. I spent a lot on that. But her demands only grew and one day she crossed the limit," Pandey added.
According to her, the so-called godwoman took around Rs 400,000 from her in total over the last few years. She asked Pandey to sacrifice a black goat and also demanded a new mobile phone. Pandey was growing suspicious about the godwoman's activities. However, she kept on following her instructions. One day, the godwoman told Pandey that there could be five corpses buried below her home and that the corpses needed to be taken out. She also instructed Pandey to ask her son to come back from abroad and be present at the puja mandap (pavilion for public rituals). He was Pandey's youngest son and she followed this suggestion as well. After coming from abroad, he was quarantined but he was taken to the godwoman’s room even before he completed 14 days in quarantine. When the son was there before her, the godwoman hit him with a trident (to free him from illnesses). While doing so, she said that he had been targeted by a witch and that the witch was none other than his own mother. Hearing this, Pandey lost her cool. And then she took the matter to the police.
"First she trapped me in her net, exploited me, took my money and then finally she said that I was the witch who was responsible for the illnesses of my sons. That was insane, I then reported the matter to the police," Pandey said.
At the police station, the woman apologized and agreed to pay all the money back to the Pandey family. But later, she simply disappeared, according to Pandey.
Due to her fake identity that she presented before the people, locals are hardly aware of her real address. Until she fled the locality following police intervention, she had already duped and swindled many.
Kaliram Chaudhari from Ghorahi–15 is another victim of the godwoman. Chaudhari says he offered Rs 350,000 to the godwoman as he wanted to get rid of his shivering problem. "I don't know the reason but my body shivers at times. I thought she'd cure me. I offered her money. Not just that, she treated me like a paid staff for two years. I brought flowers for her, took her to different temples," he lamented.
Chaudhari stopped going to the godwoman as his health problem was intact even after her regular assurances that he'd be fine.
Another victim from Ghorahi is Motilal Dangi. He offered two gold rings to please the godwoman. "Her fame was glaring here in Ghorahi. Everyone would talk of her. I also fell in the ditch. I offered her gold rings and money," he said. Dangi had also stumbled upon the godwoman as he was fed up with his illnesses and other problems.
Locals are enraged that the godwoman aka Radha Khatri is not in jail despite police complaints against her. Her mobile phone is switched off.
"That day she begged to be forgiven at the police station and gave me verbal assurances to pay back my entire amount. But suddenly she is nowhere to be seen. She might have opened her shop elsewhere and people might have trusted her just like we did. It's very important to know her whereabouts and put her behind the bar," Pushpa Pandey stressed.