Mithilesh Kumar Srivastava, better known as Natwarlal (1912-1996/2009), was a noted Indian con man known for having repeatedly “sold” the Taj Mahal, the Red Fort, and the Rashtrapati Bhavan and also the Parliament House of India along with its 545 sitting members. He was a living-legend in his lifetime and a legend even after his death.
He was born in Bangra village in Siwan district of Bihar, by profession he was a lawyer before he turned into a conman.
He used more than 50 aliases, was a master of disguises and used novel ideas to cheat and was master in forging signatures of famous personalities. He is also said to have cheated number of industrialists including Birlas and Dhirubhai Ambani taking from them huge money in cash, posing as social worker or needy person. Also he had duped many shop-owners with lakhs of rupees, paying them by cheque and demand drafts, which were later found to be forged.
Natwarlal was arrested several times, but was last seen by authorities on June 24, 1996; when the wheelchair-using octogenarian vanished while being transported from prison to a hospital for treatment. He disappeared at New Delhi railway station, when he was being taken to AIIMS, under police escort from Kanpur jail for treatment., after which he was never seen by anyone. He was 84 years of age at that time.
In 2009, his lawyer requested that 100 charges pending against Natwarlal be dropped claiming that Natwarlal died on July 25; however, Natwarlal’s brother, Ganga Prasad Srivastava, subsequently claimed to have cremated him in 1996.
Natwarlal was wanted in 100 cases and he was wanted by 8 states police and was sentenced to 113 years in prison. However, he made daring escapes from different jails eight times in his life.
His exploits are often compared with Frank Abagnale and Victor Lustig
The main character played by Amitabh Bachchan in 1979 blockbuster film Mr. Natwarlal and also the film name, both have been named after him. In the 1970s and ’80s, when the film was made and released his exploits were legendary.
Jurm a popular weekly crime based television programme aired by Aaj Tak, made episodes on his life and story in 2004.
The people of his native village Bangra in Bihar take a pride that he belonged to their village and have decided to put up a statue of him as his monument, at the place, where his house once stood.
His house is said to have been demolished by British, however, the land still belongs to the family. His younger brother, Ganga Prasad Shrivastav lives in Gopalgunj, whereas Natwarlal’s daughter lives in Ranchi, who is married to an army-man.
He is considered to be greatest conman of India and his legend lives on as any conman who pull off particularly smart frauds are called Natwarlal in India and many fraudsters say they got inspired from life of Natwarlal.