Gupta brothers are heroes in the small Indian town of Saharanpur

In the humble surroundings they hail from, the community sees the controversial siblings as an inspiration.

There a is a decrepit two-floor house with its plaster coming off and the gate almost falling away at Rani Bazaar area of Saharanpur in India. Last week, the house hogged all the attention among the locals.

Writing in the Hindu Times, Mohammad Ali reported that this is the house where the Gupta brothers, Ajay, Atul and Rajesh, grew up before coming to South Africa where they ensconced themselves with Jacob Zuma.

Ali remarked how South Africans may have turned hostile to the brothers, but the residents of Rani Bazaar continue to tell “inspiring stories” of the meteoric rise of these sons of the soil.

“The Gupta brothers are the best thing to have happened to Saharanpur,” Javed Sabri, a family friend, was quoted as saying.

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Sabri, a man described as being in his 40s and an influential resident of the town because of his proximity to the Guptas, noted that the three brothers had been inspired by their father Shiv Kumar Gupta, a small-time trader who ran a company that distributed soapstone powder in the city.

Ajay, Atul and Rajesh Gupta are said to have grown up in the “bylanes” of Rani Bazaar and studied at the local JV Jain college. Ajay graduated with a BCom and completed a “Chartered Accountancy course”, Atul finished his BSc and did a course in computer hardware and assembly and Rajesh earned a BSc.

“Shiv Kumar Gupta was a visionary. So even when his sons, after their education, established a company in Delhi that imported spices from Madagascar and Zanzibar, he kept on telling them to dream big and go to uncharted territories with immense business possibilities. So in 1993 the brothers moved to Johannesburg,” said Sabri.

Ali was told by Sabri that during a week of high political drama in which the ruling ANC wrestled with the matter of the recall of Zuma, Ajay and Atul were attending a Mahashivratri procession in Rani Bazaar.

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The event is a Hindu festival celebrated annually in honour of the god Shiva. There was much speculation last week in South Africa about the whereabouts of the brothers, who are believed to be on the run from the law.

“Both Ajay And Atul were here on Tuesday and they left the same day. But there was no worry on their faces. Because they have done no wrong. They have a base in Dehradun where they live but they keep coming here and are in touch with their family and friends,” Sabri added.

Ali also wrote that the local residents, some of whom are related to the Gupta brothers, defended them and gave “testimonies to their hard work”.

“The allegations against Ajay, Atul and Rajesh are completely false. It was only a pressure tactic to make Zuma resign,” said Asutosh Agarwal, a relative who lives next to the ancestral house of the Guptas.

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