18 Jun 2012

The Right to Reject Our Rulers – An Angry Ashramite

We certainly need a change in the present administration of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. But many Ashramites do not want a change, not because they find the present Trustees perfect or fulfilling their duties with tolerable human errors, but because a change might make things worse. They think that an Administrator appointed by the Government or another set of Trustees or a different system of administration will destroy the existing stability of the Ashram community. But have these complacent people thought what will happen if they simply keep quiet and let things deteriorate until the Ashram comes under the iron grip of a mafia of power-mongers? Imagine in the near future the wily and crooked Matriprasad as the Managing Trustee, Nirmal (the Ashram lawyer, or is it broker?) and Prabhou (the commission agent) among the other four Trustees: what an unbeatable gang would it be with a no holds barred attitude towards selfish gain in terms of money, power and sex! Not that there will be no “good guys” in the administration such as Dilip Mehtani or Batti (Prabhakar Pantulu). But they will be mere figureheads (as indeed they are now) in order to please the public’s desire to see honest men in the highest seats of power. Power they will have but without being able to execute it in the proper way, for the bad guys will run the administration from behind and justify everything underneath the sun in the name of political expediency or practical necessity. The good guys will only bow their heads in shame or wag their tails in approval, and quote beautiful quotations from the works of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother to support the actions of their real masters. The present scenario is not very different from what I have described, but the situation will be far worse in the coming future when the little morality that is left will be thrown to the winds and naked falsehood will reign without any sense of shame. As it is, we have thrown overboard all moral rules at the Ashram under the pretext that we are above morality, when what the Mother really meant was that we should go beyond morality and not below it.

Therefore it would be far better to go through a temporary phase of instability leading to a better system of self-governance, where corruption can be at least combated instead of accepting it helplessly as an inevitable part of human nature. Whatever be the system that is going to replace the present authoritarian regime, be it a collective decision-making process involving the entire community or only a group of inmates and devotees chosen on the basis of seniority, importance and popularity, or simply another set of Trustees with a time bar of 3-5 years on their tenure, one thing is clear and non-negotiable: the Ashramites (or beneficiaries) must have the right to reject those who are at the helm of affairs. A constitutional mechanism must be provided to express their no-confidence in the existing heads of the institution and to re-elect the new heads, who will smoothly take over the reins of governance into their hands and restore the confidence of the beneficiaries. Ideally, this mechanism should be available at any point of time during the tenure of the elected or appointed heads of the administration so that they immediately face the consequences of their wrong actions instead of only at the end of their period as office-bearers, by which time they would have inflicted irreparable damage to the institution. However, adequate and care caution should be exercised to prevent a too frequent use of this mechanism, which might lead to a dangerous instability and over politicisation. One simple way of avoiding this worrisome possibility would be to impose the requirement of an overwhelming majority (say a two-third or a four-fifth majority) in order to be able to challenge and replace the heads of the administration during the middle of the term.  

I have speculated enough about the future of the Ashram administration. I know that many Ashramites would be deeply offended by these speculations, but do they realise that things cannot go on forever in the present style of functioning? Or will they still bury their heads in the sand like ostriches and pretend that nothing is wrong while the winds of change are blowing all over the world? When will they realise that the Ashram is also part of this world?

An Angry Ashramite

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