Balesh Dhankhar—described as the ‘worst rapist’ in Sydney’s history—was convicted for 39 sexual offences this week. The case is making headlines both for the shocking crimes–and Dhankhar’s ties to the BJP—though one has little to do with the other. Here’s a brief guide to Dhankhar and the case.
Researched by: Rachel John & Anannya Parekh
Content warning: This is a story about sexual violence—and contains testimony from survivors that can be difficult to read.
Who is this guy??
For all the ink spilled across news sites, we don’t know all that much about his background:
- The 43-year-old is from Rewari, Haryana and is described as an Australian citizen.
- His Facebook page says he went to school at a Kendriya Vidyalaya—and graduated from the University of Technology, Sydney.
- Dhankhar worked as a data expert for over 15 years.
- His LinkedIn profile describes him as a “data visualisation consultant” who has worked with Deloitte, Pfizer and the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.
- Notably, the ABC contract was in 2019—when he was out on bail on the rape case.
The BJP connection: is far more well-documented. Dhankhar was a founding member of the Australia chapter of the Overseas Friends of the BJP (OFBJP). The parent organisation is the international arm of the party—and was first launched in the US “to educate American lawmakers, the American people and the Indian American community about the true principles of the BJP.” By 2013, it had chapters in 40 countries. The organisation helps mobilise support for the party both within and outside India—and played a key role in the 2014 election of Narendra Modi.
Dhankhar’s key role: He appears to have been a prominent member of the Indian diaspora in Australia. Dhankhar helped organise an event welcoming PM Modi in Sydney in 2014. He even attended the swearing-in ceremony at the Rashtrapati Bhavan. A number of photos of him with the PM have resurfaced on social media. They seem to be taken on multiple occasions. Example #1:
And here’s example #2:
Point to note: Dhankhar appears to have been the national president of OFBJP Australia—from 2014 and right up to June 2018. The organisation claims he resigned in July that same year. Dhankhar was arrested in October.
The Hindu community connect: Dhankhar was also the spokesperson for the Hindu Council of Australia—and he often spoke out on issues that affected the community. Example: An ad that showed Lord Ganesha eating lamb.
Something to see: In his public profile photos, Dhankhar appears to have favoured the sober Indian neta look:
And during the trial, he did his best to prevent the media from identifying him in public:
In the years leading up to the trial, Dhankhar guarded his privacy – he sought suppression orders and, when that failed, sprinted away from cameras outside court. He removed his photographs from social media and wore masks in public.
Second content warning: The really distressing bits are in this section.
Ok, now tell me about this case…
On Monday, Dhankhar was found guilty of each of the 39 charges filed against him. These included “13 charges of rape, six of administering an intoxicating substance with intent to enable himself to rape, 17 of recording intimate videos without consent, and three of indecent assault.”
The survivors: were five Korean women—assaulted over a period of 10 months—between January and October 2018. Dhankar targeted Asian women—specifically Koreans. A police raid on his residence uncovered 47 videos of him raping Asian women—plus similar porn videos:
The videos were sorted into folders, each labelled with a Korean woman’s name. Then detectives found a series of bookmarks in Dhankhar’s browser. “Small drugged Korean f---ed webcam roleplay” one video bookmarked on his computer was titled. Another video went for 95 minutes, a montage of unconscious women subjected to sex.
According to the police, Dhankhar was “increasingly obsessed with Korean cinema, language and women.”
The modus operandi: Dhankhar posted online job ads for Korean-English translators in 2017. He zeroed in on women who were new to the city—and/or desperate for employment. He would “interview” them at a hotel cafe—and then pressure them into having dinner with him. During the course of the evening, Dhankhar would find a way to lace either their drink or food with sedatives.
We’re going to offer just one example of how this worked:
Another young woman recalled eating ice cream and having one glass of wine in his house and then nothing until a late night call to her boyfriend. She recalled being naked and feeling dirty and dizzy, and remembers bright lights, a condom wrapper and feeling pain. She didn’t think Dhankhar had sex with her, the prosecutors said.
Later, the police found videos of Dhankhar raping her “while she was unresponsive and making ‘distressed sounds’.”
Point to note: Dhankhar bought 126 zolpidem pills between February 2018 and his arrest—a drug used to treat people suffering from insomnia.
The ledger: If the gruesome videos weren’t enough, the police also found a ‘ledger’ maintained by Dhankhar—with meticulous notes on the women he’d assaulted—who he nicknamed ‘BASE4’.
The bottomline: Dhankhar’s connection to the BJP is mostly a distraction. Sexual predators are everywhere—irrespective of ideology. What Dhankhar’s case truly reveals is the hypocrisy of the adarsh Indian purush. He complained to the court about the “unfulfilling” intimacy of his marriage—even as his wife stood by his side—in tears over her pati-dev’s plight.
The Sydney Morning Herald has the best reporting on the case—with all the details. Also in the SMH: testimonies of survivors. The Wire, The Print and The Quint also look at Dhankar’s BJP connection. We have everything you need to know about the OFBJP in this Big Story.