30 Apr 2012

CNN-IBN Sting Exposes the Trustees of the Ashram Trust

About the same time that the Heehs controversy was brewing in 2008, the CNN-IBN news channel had carried out a bold sting operation on the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust and on Manoj Das Gupta (Managing Trustee) in particular.

Senior journalists of CNN-IBN posing as businessmen setting up a holiday resort in Pondicherry met with Manoj Das Gupta at his residence one evening and secretly videoed their interaction with him. They allegedly recorded Manoj Das Gupta receiving cash bribes for favours.

CNN-IBN then widely advertised and promoted their program titled "The Divine Trap" and announced its broadcast for prime time at 9pm on 15th March 2008. The program allegedly included the video of the Managing Trustee receiving the bribe, and in addition claimed to reveal the dirty underbelly of the Trustees' functioning and their alleged abetment of suicide, murder, rape and financial corruption.

The Trustees made desperate attempts to stop the broadcast by bringing pressure on the CNN-IBN management through several influential devotees. But CNN-IBN remained firm and refused to succumb to any inducements. Their promotional video was aired daily in the run-up to the broadcast and then was aired hourly on the day before the broadcast. On the 15th, the actual day of the broadcast, the promo was aired every half hour.

Three hours before the broadcast was due, the promos mysteriously stopped, and the program was cancelled without giving any reasons. No explanation has been forthcoming to this day.

Will CNN-IBN shed light on this? The public have a right to know as the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is a public charitable institution and its trustees are accountable to the public.

The promo for the sting program is explosive and revealing in its own right. Click on the video to view the promo. For best results, view in full screen mode.


  1. The fact that this report did not air points to even more dirty tricks on the part of the Trust. In this context the following blog post can shed some more light on what might have happened behind the scenes: http://www.mediacrooks.com/2012/04/blackmail-not-new-to-media-arnab.html

    It cites the following passage from Sucheta Dalal's "Selling news or buying silence?":

    “Such spurious news has included gushing endorsements of flop movies, fashion and lifestyle products and the promotion of hotels and restaurants that enter into a payment arrangement with the organisation. The reader has no clue that the adulatory report is nothing but a paid advertisement masquerading as objective reportage or opinion. Even while the debate over the ethics of a newspaper 'selling news' was hotting up into a regular war of words between two of the country's top-selling English dailies, journalism was dealt another stunning blow. Last week, the Mumbai police arrested Rishi Chopra of The Economic Times along with an accomplice (a former journalist with another business daily) in an alleged extortion attempt. The duo was trapped accepting a Rs 700,000 bribe which was the second installment of a Rs 2.5 million payoff to kill a report about the shenanigans of one Poonamchand Malu of Malu Financial Services. Worse, the pay-off itself had apparently been haggled down from an initial demand of Rs 10 million to Rs 2.5 million. Although corruption in the media is no longer news, the actual arrest of two scribes and the sums involved, marked a new low in this once honourable profession”.

  2. "Three hours before the broadcast was due, the promos mysteriously stopped, and the program was cancelled without giving any reasons. No explanation has been forthcoming to this day."

    But what had happened on 13 April evening seems to be a greater mystery. The news flash at 6.30 PM was very clear, that no extension of visa was given to Peter Heehs. At 9.30 PM came the news that the visa period was extended by one year. This is a puzzle wrapped in a riddle which is an enigma.

    The Home Minister granted the extension overruling the recommendation of ministry and immigration officials.

    How has this happened in less than two hours? Can you please shed some light on the matter?