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Patna (Bihar): About 40 years ago, the only son of a landlord family of Nalanda district’s Murgawan village went missing. Four years later, a man appeared and claimed to be the landlord’s missing son. He stayed with the family for four decades and became the landlord’s heir.
Now, a local court has found him guilty of impersonating the landlord’s son.
Dayanand Gosain – the man convicted for impersonation – is originally from Jamui district. Additional Chief Judicial Magistrate in the Biharsharif civil court V. Manvendra Mishra said in his order on April 5:
“Considering the nature and facts of the offence, Dayanand Gosain has been sentenced to three years imprisonment and a fine of Rs.10,000 under Section 419, imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to three years, with a fine of Rs 10,000 under Section 420 and imprisonment of either description for a term which may extend to six months under Section 120(b) of Indian Penal Code. All the sentences will run concurrently.”
The disappearance – and ‘return’
Kameshwar Singh, a resident of Murgawan, was a big landlord in the area. Anil Kumar Singh, a resident of the village, told The Wire, “He was the owner of hundreds of bighas of land and had been mukhiya, panchayat chief, several times. His brother was a member of the Rajya Sabha.”
Kameshwar had only one son, named Kanhaiya. On February 20, 1977, 16-year-old Kanhaiya left home to appear for his matriculation examination, but did not return.
Kameshwar and his wife Ramsakhi Devi filed a missing person’s report at the local police station and also made personal attempts to try and find him. Kameshwar’s mental health was dealt a heavy blow by his son’s disappearance; his condition only deteriorated over the years. The couple also met a tantrik (godman) in Motihari, who said that their son would return three months later. That did not happen. The couple was distraught.
Four years later, on September 20, 1981, a young man in the guise of a sanyasi came to a neighbouring village and claimed that he was Kameshwar and Ramsakhi’s missing son.
According to the court order, since the news of the Kameshwar’s son’s disappearance had “spread like wildfire”, those in neighbouring villages knew about it. So when the young man said that he was the landlord’s son, they had no reason to disbelieve him.
Soon after, they rushed to Kameshwar and took him to the saffron-clad sanyasi. The young man then produced a letter whose handwriting, apparently, matched Kanhaiya’s.
Though Kameshwar could not recognise ‘Kanhaiya’ initially, locals reportedly insisted that the young man was indeed his son. They told Kameshwar that since his son was returning after several years, his facial features had changed. Convinced, the landlord brought the young man home. He started living with the family as their son.
Kameshwar was happy to have his son back home and his health improved too. However, Ramsakhi was suspicious of the young man from the beginning.
She lodged a complaint against him at the Silaon Police Station on November 21, 1981, two months after he started living with the couple. Ramsakhi wrote in her complaint, “Since my husband’s health had started getting better after finding the young man, I did not take any immediate action, but I doubted him.”
According to her complaint, she had strong reasons to not believe in his claims. For one, he didn’t look like her son. Two, her son had a scar on his head, but there wasn’t any such mark on Dayanand’s body. Three, his teachers too could not recognise him as Kanhaiya.
She further wrote in her complaint, “The young man wrote a letter to an address in Munger and invited some people to our house. The very next day some people came here. He started talking to them in some language which I did not understand. When they were leaving our home, he gave them money.”
Ramsakhi alleged that the man was trying to get all the family’s properties in his name. He also tried to take Kameshwar’s gun, she said. She also claimed that he had threatened them that if he had to leave the village, he would have to carry out some heinous crimes.
The years that followed
The matter had been pending in court since 1981. As the issue remained unresolved, Dayanand stayed with the couple and sold several properties registered under Kameshwar’s name over the years. He got married while living in Murgawan and stayed at Kameshwar’s house even after his death in 1990. Ramsakhi passed away in 1995.
After the couple died, the case was closed by the local court. However, Kameshwar’s daughter moved the Supreme Court and successfully got the case reopened, according to Dainik Bhaskar.
According to Anil Kumar Singh, “Ramsakhi Devi lived with her daughter in Patna for a long time. The young man lived in the village with Kameshwar Singh. All the villagers would consider him Kameshwar Singh’s son.”
According to the locals, Dayanand sold around 50 bighas of the family land within 15 years of his arrival in the village.
When the matter reached court, the statements of seven prosecution witnesses and seven defence witnesses, as well as various documents, were examined and Dayanand Gosain was found guilty of impersonation.
After scrutinising all the evidence, the court found that Dayanand is originally from Jamui district. In his village, people had reportedly known that he was falsely living as a landlord’s son in Nalanda.
The court also observed that Dayanand refused to give DNA samples and even produced a fake death certificate naming Dayanand Gosain. All this evidence proved, the court said, that he was impersonating the couple’s missing son to take over their properties.