Tag Archives: Bihar

Natwarlal: India’s Own Con Man


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Myself 

By T. V. Antony Raj

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“The most important weapon in a con man’s arsenal is another man’s greed.”

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Victor Lustig
Victor Lustig

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Victor Lustig (January 4, 1890-March 11, 1947) born in Hostinne, Austria-Hungary, was a con artist who undertook scams in various countries and became best known as “The man who sold the Eiffel Tower. Twice.” He also ripped off Al Capone, the American gangster of $50,000.

In 1947, Lustig succumbed to pneumonia. His death certificate reads “Robert V. Miller, apprentice salesman.” A deviant even in death!

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Frank William Abagnale
Frank Abagnale

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Frank William Abagnale, Jr. born April 27, 1948, an American, is considered one of the most famous impostors ever. As a confidence trickster, check forger, impostor, and escape artist, Frank Abagnale, before his nineteenth birthday, successfully performed cons worth millions of dollars while assuming no fewer than eight identities impersonating a Pan Am pilot, a Georgia doctor, a teacher, a Louisiana parish prosecutor, a U.S. Bureau of Prisons agent, and a lawyer to name a few.

Frank Abagnale’s primary crime was check fraud. He became so experienced that the FBI eventually turned to him for help in catching other check forgers.

Now, Frank Abagnale is a security consultant and an ethical motivator. He is one of the world’s leading authorities on combating forgery and embezzlement. For more than 30 years, many of the world’s leading financial corporations and governments have consulted him. He is associated with the FBI. Now, more than 14,000 financial institutions, corporations and law enforcement agencies across the nation use his fraud prevention programs.

In 1998, CNN’s Financial News named Abagnale one of its “Pinnacle 400” business leaders.

Catch Me if You Can is the autobiography of Frank Abagnale,  co-written by Stan Redding. In 1980, Frank Abagnale sold the film rights to his autobiography which was adapted into a 2002 film of the same name by director Steven Spielberg, starring Leonardo DiCaprio as Abagnale and Tom Hanks as the FBI agent who pursued him.

The notorious con man of India

India too can boast of its own indigenous notorious con man who had more than 50 identities. The police in eight states wanted him in about 100 cases, and his convictions added up to 117 years of prison life. He was a living legend in his lifetime known for his notoriety and is still a legend even after his death in 2009 (???) at the age of 97.

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Natwarlal - 2
Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava alias Natwarlal

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Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, better known as Natwarlal, was born in 1912 in a nondescript village named Bangra, in Raghunathpur CD Block of Siwan district in Bihar, India, just two kilometres away from Ziradei, the birthplace of India’s first President Dr Rajendra Prasad.

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Natwarlal, master of disguise.
Natwarlal – Master of disguise.

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Natwarlal left Bangra when he was 15 years-old and never returned to it.

He mastered the art of disguise and used novel ideas to cheat. He also mastered forgery and is known to have forged the signatures of many celebrities of his period. According to a legend, he was close to Dr Rajendra Prasad. However, the two fell out after Natwarlal tried to dupe the first president by forging his signature.

To Natwarlal, committing fraud was an art. Before he turned into a con man, he was by profession a lawyer. He had studied and understood human nature, and he used the vital weapon in a con man’s arsenal: another man’s greed.

He had swindled millions of rupees from many shop-owners by paying for goods purchased with forged cheques and demand drafts.

Natwarlal cheated many industrialists by posing as a social worker or as a person in need and relieving them of a huge amount of cash. It is alleged that even the Tatas, Birlas, and Dhirubhai Ambani had fallen for his ruse.

Natwarlal repeatedly sold the Taj Mahal thrice to gullible foreigners, the Red Fort twice, the Rashtrapati Bhavan once and the Parliament House of India lock, stock, and barrel along with its 545 sitting members.

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Natwarlal - 3

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Natwarlal was arrested nine times. However, he managed to escape from jail every time. He was last arrested in 1996. He was 84 years old at that time and was using a wheelchair. On June 24, 1996, Natwarlal vanished in the teeming crowd at New Delhi railway station while being escorted by the police from Kanpur jail to the AIIMS hospital for treatment. It was the last time anyone had ever seen him.

Natwarlal’s death is a mystery. In 2009, his lawyer Nandlal Jaiswal announced that Natwarlal died on Saturday, July 25, 2009. However, Ganga Prasad Srivastava, brother of Natwarlal claimed that he had cremated his brother Natwarlal in 1996 at Ranchi.

Therefore, the actual time, date, month, and year of Natwarlal’s death is still uncertain. So, living up to his legend Natwarlal died twice, 13 years apart.

The authorities are baffled with these queries:

Is Natwarlal really dead?
If he is alive where is he now?
Is he planning yet another scam under yet another name?

Many residents of Bangra are still basking in the glory of their legendary con man. They have plans to install a life-sized statue of the notorious Natwarlal in their village in the vacant land where Natwarlal’s house was once stood. This, they say this is the least they can do for the infamous man who made their featureless village in Bihar famous.

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True Grit: The Legend of Dashrath Manjhi, the ‘Mountain Man’


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Myself . By T.V. Antony Raj

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He [Jesus] said to them, “Because of your little faith. Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” – Matthew 17:20

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In 1960, the residents of the 25-house hamlet of Gehlaur in the Gaya district of Bihar, India, scoffed at and ridiculed a frail young man in his early twenties, chipping the solid rocks of a 300- feet-high hill, with a chisel and hammer. They called him a fool when he said he was making a way for them to walk over to the other side of the hill. Even so, this so- called mad person, Dashrath Manjhi, toiled all alone, chiseling the rocky hill.

This legend of Dashrath Manjhi, the mountain man, a symbol of Bihari resilience, had its origin five decades ago.

Dashrath Manjhi, born in 1934, belonged to Musahar community considered as the lowest among the Hindu scheduled castes. They live in the states of Bihar and Uttar Pradesh in India, also known in Bihar as Rajwar, and on the plateau as Manjhi. While people belonging to other lower castes had some land rights under the defunct Zamindari system, the Musahars never enjoyed any such rights. Today, nearly 98 percent of the state’s 1.3 million Musahars are landless. This community has the lowest literacy rate in India. The name of the community derives from the fact that for many in the community the day’s main meal still comprises of roots, rats and snails.

Gehlaur village flanked by mountain hills practically cuts the village off from civilisation. Day in day out, the villagers traversed the jagged rockbound hills to reach the other side to get employed in the fields, and to shop.

Dashrath, then a young labourer, often got hired to work in the fields beyond the hills. His wife Falguni Devi used to carry his food and water across the imposing hills to the fields where he worked.

One day, in 1960, a thirsty Dashrath waited impatiently for his wife who had gone to the other side of the hill to fetch water. After a prolonged time, she returned without the water pot. She had slipped on the rocky terrain and had broken the earthen vessel.

The grief and helplessness that Dashrath saw on his wife’s face haunted him for many days. Then he realized, that for generations, the hill had been a curse to his people. It was standing in the way between their thirst and the life-giving water. Knowing the apathy of the state government and local administrations towards his village he decided to single-handedly cut a path through the rocky hill. He also knew that such a path would be a shortcut that would make the town of Wazirganj easily accessible to his people.

He equipped himself with a hammer, a chisel, and rope by selling his goats. He built a hut close to the hill so that he could chisel it away night and day.

Initially, the people of the village thought he was mad and did not bother to hide that fact from him. His parents, relations, and even his wife thought so. Everyone ridiculed him. Undaunted, Dashrath cut through the mountain with true grit. Engrossed in his hazardous work he at times did not have anything to eat.

After a few years, people noticed the change in the contour of the hill. There was a depression in the middle that made climbing lot easier. A few who earlier called him mad volunteered to take part in his task.

In 1982, twenty-two years after he started his project, the residents of Gehlaur village, travelled daily to the other side of the hill and back through the 16-feet-wide passage that Dashrath Manjhi had single-handedly hewn through solid rock. This feat has now become a local folklore. Now the Biharis fondly remember Dashrath Manjhi as the ‘Mountain Main’ – an icon of true grit and a humanitarian.

However, Dashrath Manjhi celebrated his achievement amidst sadness. His wife, who inspired him to take on this Herculean task, was not there by his side to see the completed task. She died of illness, years back. They could not take her to a hospital on time for want of a proper road.

On January 19, 2007, Bihar’s Deputy Chief Minister, Sri S.K.Modi launched the book Gauravshali Bihari dedicated to a man of true grit, Sri Dashrath Manjhi. Twenty one eminent authors from various parts of the country contributed to the book. Uday Narain Choudhary wrote a chapter on Dashrath Manjhi titled “Dashrath Manjhi – A symbol of Bihari resilience”.

On August 17, 2007, Dashrath Manjhi passed away, after a prolonged battle with cancer at Delhi’s All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS).

Chief Minister Nitish Kumar announced State funeral for the ‘Mountain Man’.

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