“Sunil Kulkarni…who?” was the response of a Nagpur-based cop when asked about the man who heads Shifu Sunkriti, as news broke that the cult stood accused of being a drug and sex ring that preys on young women.
This is not surprising as even days after Kulkarni’s arrest, little is known about the innocuous-looking man who claimed to have a doctorate in psychology from an institute in Nagpur. His name is not on its records or those of the local branch of the Indian Medical Association.
Nagpur appears key to unravelling the web of lies that surround 54-year-old Kulkarni who claims to hail from the place. His Twitter profile shows him against the background of a large photograph of Maharashtra chief minister Devendra Fadnavis, who is from Nagpur. On social media platforms, Kulkarni projected himself as “a medical psychiatrist, clinical & organisational psychologist, corporate, motivational & positive health trainer”.
He has been arrested on charges of trafficking and pushing girls into drug abuse. And police are focussing on three cities – Nagpur, Mumbai and Delhi – in their bid to nail Kulkarni, who came up against the law after parents of two young women in the Mumbai suburb of Malad moved the Bombay high court saying he had lured their daughters into a sex and drugs racket.
The police are looking for these two young women, who have gone into hiding, to find out what’s going on in the cult. The police say Kulkarni, who is in custody, is denying any wrong-doing and telling them that the two women will vouch for him.
The police are, however, exploring various angles. Sex clips found on Kulkarni’s phone and a pen drive has led the Mumbai crime branch to Delhi. Police suspect Kulkarni operates several firms there under different names.
Kulkarni’s world began to crumble on April 18, a couple from Malad who had approached the Bombay high court in December last year with a plea that the police trace Kulkarni, who they accused of luring their daughters, aged 21 and 23, into a ‘sex and drugs cult’ through social media. Last Wednesday, two more couples from the city approached the HC with similar allegations. Kulkarni almost got away as the Mumbai police found nothing to corroborate the claims, but the HC put its foot down and ordered the police to file a FIR.
Facebook and Twitter appear to be Kulkarni’s preferred hunting ground. On Twitter, he invited young women to be part of the fashion industry. On May 23, 2016, Kulkarni tweeted through his personal account, “We are launching a new promising television channel IFTV Indian Fashion Television. We invite support (sic).”
Kulkarni did his best to not leave behind an address. The Facebook page of Shifu Sunkriti has no address or contact details and whoever wishes to join the ‘campaign’ is required to leave his or her phone number. Thereafter, he or she is contacted by Kulkarni. According to the plea in court, the Facebook page contains provocative posts and sexually explicit messages such as “Experience your naked body and naked emotions”.
“Once one is into the group, one is administered drugs, is hypnotised, and is made to have physical relations with Kulkarni himself, and with several others,” the plea in the HC claims. The plea also claims that Kulkarni has criminal antecedents and has various cases registered against him both in Mumbai and Delhi.
Though not much has come to the fore on his personal life, what police know is that while he is married and has two children, he does not stay with his wife.