17 Mar 2012

No Food for Togo Mukherjee

The senseless victimisation of Ashramites by the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust headed by Manoj Das Gupta has to be brought to the notice of the general public. One had the impression a few years ago that the members of the Ashram followed a difficult path of Yoga and lived on a high moral ground of perfection. It was also assumed that the administration of the Ashram was carried out by the Trustees keeping these noble principles in mind. But what do we hear of late? Meaningless, senseless victimisation of Ashramites who are hapless because they have no way to defend themselves!

The latest victim is Togo Mukherjee, grandson of the famous Bagha Jatin (Jatin Mukherjee who was an associate of Sri Aurobindo in the early days of the Indian independence movement). Manoj Das Gupta has instructed the Dining Room not to renew Togo’s yearly Dining Room pass for which he has been paying regularly from the last 18 years.

Togo, along with his two brothers, Prithwindra Mukherjee (the writer who was honoured last year by the French Govt for his scholarly contributions) and Rathindra Mukherjee, had joined the Ashram in 1948. Their family had been admitted into the Ashram by the Mother herself. Togo made remarkable contributions to the Ashram departments after finishing his studies at the Ashram School. He literally built the Ashram Hand Made Paper department from scratch and streamlined the operations of the Ashram Laundry before he left for France for further studies. His daredevil role in protecting the Ashram properties from destruction in the Anti-Hindi riots of 1965 is well-known and there is a beautiful passage in the Agenda by the Mother describing how she saved him after he was fatally hit on the head by an iron rod. In the same passage the Mother remarks, “The boy has the makings of a hero.”

What was Togo’s crime? He spoke freely on the issue of Peter Heehs, condemned outright his derogatory book on Sri Aurobindo and even participated in the silent protests organised by those who are against the inordinate support of the Trustees for Peter Heehs. The Trust is already on record in the Hindu of 28.02.2012 saying that it respects the freedom of speech of anybody in the Ashram. But why does it not respect the freedom of speech of Togo Mukherjee? Why this duplicity? Peter Heehs does not ruffle the Trust when he writes rubbish on Sri Aurobindo, but when Togo Mukherjee bravely takes on Peter Heehs, the Trust deprives him of his basic necessities! Deprives food to a 75 year old man who has been taking food in the Dining Room from the last 64 years! A 75 year old man who is suffering from all sorts of physical ailments but who is brave enough to stand for the Truth, because the blood of Bagha Jatin runs in his veins!

We reproduce below the letter Togo Mukherjee wrote to Manoj Das Gupta:


Togo Mukherjee                                                                          
Flat No 9, First Floor
49, Rue Fran├žois Martin
Puducherry 605012

Manoj Das Gupta
Sri Aurobindo Ashram
Puducherry 605002

SUB: Renewal of Dining Room Pass from April 2012 to March 2013

Dear Shri Manoj Das Gupta

The Mother herself had admitted me to the Ashram in 1948. I have had my education at the Ashram School and have rendered the Ashram valuable service after the completion of my education. I have played an important role in setting up the Hand Made Paper factory of the Ashram and streamlining the operations of the Ashram Laundry. After my return from France in 1994, I have treated without any remuneration a number of Ashram patients with physiotherapy, including Ravindra-ji, who was in charge of the work allotment in the Ashram.

From the last eighteen years, I have been availing daily of the facilities of the Ashram Dining Room against payment. From 1967 (when I left for Paris) to 1973 (the year of Mother’s passing away), I took my food in the Dining Room without any payment whenever I came from France to spend a few months at the Ashram. From 1974 to 1994 I began to pay for my food on my own whenever I came to visit my parents from Paris. After I settled once again in Pondicherry in March 1994 up to the present day,  I have been availing of the Dining Room facilities on payment basis. Though I had been approached a few times by the authorities to be a member of the Ashram, I have preferred to remain independent and render voluntary service to the inmates of the Ashram.

I was therefore greatly astonished to be orally informed on Friday, the 9th of March 2012 by Urmila-ben Raojibhai (in charge of receiving payments for Dining Room passes) that I would no longer be able to have my food at the Dining Room. She told me that you had specifically told her to tell me that I would no longer be able to avail of the Dining Room facility from April 1, 2012. Subsequently, on Tuesday, the 13th of March 2012, I approached you directly in your office in the Ashram Main building and you confirmed that you had instructed Urmila-ben not to renew my yearly food coupon for the Dining Room from April 1, 2012. I then asked if you could give me an official letter stating the reasons for depriving me of my basic necessities upon which you replied, “I am not bound to give you any written letter.”

I believe you have taken this harsh decision because I have been quite frank and outspoken on the issue of Peter Heehs’s book, which has rocked the very foundations of the Ashram. It is strange that after sixty years of independence from foreign rule the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram have chosen to bow down their heads in shame before an American inmate of the Ashram and thereby support an outrageously defamatory book on Sri Aurobindo. As you know very well, I am the grandson of the famous revolutionary Bagha Jatin, who was an associate of Sri Aurobindo, and who bravely laid down his life fighting the British. You cannot expect me therefore to meekly submit to the wrong actions of the Trustees. If this is the reason why you have discontinued my dining room facility, please confirm so in your reply.

Your decision to discontinue my food coupon is totally unjust and would cause great physical hardship to me – as you very well know that I am 75 years old and suffering from several physical ailments. It would also cause profound mental distress for not being able to partake of the Prasad at the Dining Room, which I have been taking from the last 64 years and which always has been a source of spiritual sustenance to me. I will be therefore forced to take action against this most reprehensible act of victimisation and harassment and your failure to perform your duties as required of a Trustee of a public charitable institution.

I will wait for seven days for your reply from the date of receipt of my letter. If I do not receive any communication by letter within this period, I will assume that you are abusing your power and bent upon harassing me by depriving me of my basic facilities and rights under law.


Togo Mukherjee

1 comment:

  1. Here is a link to a web-page with more details on Togo Mukherjee: http://overmanfoundation.wordpress.com/2012/03/10/golden-memories-by-togo-mukherjee/

    He is a truly extraordinary individual.