20 Aug 2012

Public Protest and Memorandum Submitted by Devotees, Disciples and Inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram

The Devotees, Disciples and Inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry have been protesting publicly in large numbers the mismanagement by the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. In particular they highlighted the following:
  • Denial of basic constitutional rights of the Inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram including freedom of expression and access and appeal to the Police and the Media.
  • Absolute and unfettered concentration of power in the hands of five Trustees with unlimited tenure and absence of basic checks and balances.
  • Absence of any democratic mechanism for election of Trustees and violation of fundamental democratic norms and lack of transparency, accountability and responsible governance.
  • Legally unacceptable bylaws that deny Inmates basic human rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including access to Police protection and Media.
  • Denial of access to financial data and audited Statements of Accounts to the Public in general and the Inmates in particular.
  • Financial mismanagement including diversion of Trust funds.
  • Summary denial of food, work and medical facilities to any Inmate who speaks out against the Trustees.
  • Denial of security for women Inmates who have spoken out against sexual harassment and victimisation.
  • Allegations of abuse of the Ashram’s financial and other resources in order to gain favours with the local Administration and the Press.
  • Allegations of illegal sale and lease of valuable Ashram properties by Trustees for personal gain.
Ashok Anand (MLA) led over 250 Inmates, Devotees and Disciples to the office of the Collector, Dr Deepak Kumar in order to present a Memorandum demanding an immediate Government probe into the sordid activities of the Trustees and asked for the appointment of an Interim Administrator by the Government in order to protect Inmates from sexual harassment, intimidation and victimisation.

Selected photographs of the meeting and the full text of Memorandum are given below:

Part of the group waiting to meet the Collector

MLA Ashok Anand submits Memorandum to Collector

MLA Ashok Anand addresses the media outside the Collector's office

Inmate Annapurna replies to questions from the media

MLA Ashok Anand with a group of Devotees, Disciples and Inmates

MLA Ashok Anand assures Inmates of Government protection

Full text of Memorandum submitted to the Collector:
MEMORANDUM
SUBMITTED TO
The District Collector cum Revenue (Special Secretary).
Dr SB Deepak Kumar, IAS.
Kamaraj Salai, Saram, Puducherry.

August 13, 2012

Dear Sir,

Sub: Demand for Urgent Government Intervention and Probe in the Functioning of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust

Sri Aurobindo is a national and international figure widely recognised as a freedom fighter, national leader, yogi, philosopher and poet. Over the last hundred years his writings have increasingly inspired people all over the world by their depth and insight and their inspirational and practical content. He is revered and worshipped by millions of people in India and abroad.

While the Ashram community in Pondicherry is representative of the worldwide followers of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, the Beneficiaries of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust (a public charitable Trust) number in millions and are spread all over. The Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust are answerable not only to the immediate community in Pondicherry but to all Beneficiaries wherever they be, in India and the world.

Over the years, there have been increasing complaints and charges and allegations of corruption, financial mismanagement, sexual harassment, abetment to suicide and murder, victimisation and denial of basic human rights against the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. These have been repeatedly brought up in the mainstream media and public attention by national and local television channels and print media.

The issues have been raised in various State Assemblies and the Lok Sabha. Recently a group of more than 75 sitting Members of Parliament wrote to the Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust demanding written answers to very serious allegations of corruption and breach of trust raised by disciples and devotees of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother all over India and abroad.

The devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother have sought to highlight the following:
  • Denial of basic constitutional rights of the Inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram including freedom of expression and access and appeal to the Police and the Media.
  • Absolute and unfettered concentration of power in the hands of five Trustees with unlimited tenure and absence of basic checks and balances.
  • Absence of any democratic mechanism for election of Trustees and violation of fundamental democratic norms and lack of transparency, accountability and responsible governance.
  • Legally unacceptable bylaws that deny Inmates basic human rights guaranteed by the Indian Constitution, including access to Police protection and Media.
  • Denial of access to financial data and audited Statements of Accounts to the Public in general and the Inmates in particular.
  • Financial mismanagement including diversion of Trust funds.
  • Summary denial of food, work and medical facilities to any Inmate who speaks out against the Trustees.
  • Denial of security for women Inmates who have spoken out against sexual harassment and victimisation.
  • Allegations of abuse of the Ashram’s financial and other resources in order to gain favours with the local Administration and the Press.
  • Allegations of illegal sale and lease of valuable Ashram properties by Trustees for personal gain.

Extensive documentation relating to these allegations and charges exist and have been furnished to the Trustees on various occasions by concerned disciples and Devotees, but there has been no corrective or remedial action.

The Trustees of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust are involved in land-grabbing cases and the Managing Trustees is out on bail for the last eight years in a case involving forgery and land-grabbing. The Trustees are using the Ashram Trust’s financial resources to protect themselves and subvert the law of the land.

The Devotees, Disciples and Inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram who are also the Beneficiaries of this public charitable Trust demand an immediate and independent and thorough probe by the Government into the above charges and allegations in order to bring out the facts and ensure justice for all. We also demand that the issues raised the Hon’ble Members of Parliament vide their letter dated 22 May 2012 are thoroughly investigated.

Additionally, the Devotees, Disciples and Inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram demand the immediate appointment of a responsible Government officer in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust office to ensure that the present Trustees cannot continue to intimidate, victimise and terrorise the Inmates who seek to provide evidence to the Government and the media.

For and on behalf of Devotees, Disciples and Inmates of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Thiru Ashok Anand (MLA)

Attached: Letter of Hon’ble Members of Parliament dated 22 May 2012.

Copy to:

The Lieutenant Governor, HE Dr Iqbal Singh.
The Chief Minister, Thiru N Rangasamy.
The Chief Secretary, Tmt M Sathiyavathy, IAS.

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