13 Jul 2012

MPs seek ashram explanation on Heehs’s book

The Times Of India Chennai; Date: Jul 12, 2012;
Bosco Dominique / TNN

Puducherry: The controversy over the biography ‘The Lives of Sri Aurobindo’ by US histo­rian Peter Heehs refuses to die down with dissenting views cropping up again over the book. Several MPs across the country have questioned the Sri Aurobindo Ashram trust­ees for not taking any action against the historian.

Sixty-eight MPs, including Union minister of state (inde­pendent charge) for statistics and programme implementa­tion Srikant Kumar Jena, for­mer Bihar chief minister Lalu Prasad Yadav and former chairperson of National Com­mission for Women Girija Vyas, who are of the view that the historian made “denigra­ting and unacceptable re­marks” on Sri Aurobindo and Mirra Alfassa, fondly referred to as the Mother, sought clarifi­cation from the trustee for “the mismanagement of the Heehs affair.”

In a letter (dated June 6) ad­dressed to the board of trustees of the ashram, the MPs de­manded an explanation from them for not initiating any ac­tion against the historian de­spite the trustees going on re­cord to say that the book had “crossed all limits of simple de­cency” and in fact “denigrated Sri Aurobindo”. The trustees had later changed their stance on the book. The MPs in their letter, a copy of which has been obtained by the TOI, ques­tioned whether they were “un­der pressure from external agencies”.

Claiming that former col­leagues of Peter Heehs had brought to the trustees’ notice the theft of the ashram’s intel­lectual property the MPs ac­cused them of failing to initiate legal or criminal action against the historian-publish­er. “The assets of the Sri Auro­bindo Ashram belong to the beneficiaries in particular and the public at large and one indi­vidual cannot be permitted to gain financially at the cost of the institution,” they argued.

The MPs said the recent public protests by devotees had brought public attention on their lapses and questioned them what went wrong with the management recently and what steps they have taken to “cultivate internal transparen­cy, democracy and administra­tive reforms”.

The Tamil Nadu Progres­sive Writers’ and Artists’ Asso­ciation (PWAA), meanwhile, stuck to its stand that the book has been widely acclaimed to be a scholarly treatment of Au­robindo’s life. PWAA president S. Tamizhselvan in a letter said ‘the controversy was complete­ly uncalled for’ and congratu­lated the managing trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and board of trustees on the stand taken by the trust on the contro­versy over the book.

“It is also clear through var­ious media reports that while one section of devotees raised objections to the book, there are other devotees who find it inspiring. We therefore see no reason why some people should seek to impose their view on the Aurobindonian community and on the nation as a whole,” he said.

He appreciated the Union government’s decision to allow Peter Heehs to stay in the coun­try. Tamizhselvan also appre­ciated the ashram’s stand of “not prescribing or proscrib­ing any book and leaving the choice entirely to the individu­al”. “We also admire the cour­age that the trust has demon­strated against all odds by not banishing a writer and a histo­rian who has made the ashram his home. We hope that the peo­ple who are indulging in cheap propaganda will take note of our stand and stop harassing the ashram,” he said.

1 comment:

  1. About the Ashram’s stand of “not prescribing or proscribing any book and leaving the choice entirely to the individual”, it is well known that the Mother’s Agenda brought out by Satprem some thirty years ago was “proscribed” by the then management. A clarification to this effect is necessary. Will it come?