[The following is Prof. Manoj Das’s long response to Sricharan Singh’s article “Manoj Das has Sold his Soul to the Devil” published on this site on April 15, 2013. This is followed by Bireshwar Choudhury’s reply to Manoj Das in the very next posting on this site.]
Trusting your legend that your forum is “committed to objective, academic, respectful and honest discussions”, I send this submission to you, hopeful that you will publish this to justify the announcement. I would have ignored the provocation referred to below had the provocateurs not started distrusting it as independent leaflets.
Please refer to the provocation bearing the title “Professor Manoj Das has sold his soul to the Devil”. Only those who are Devil’s confidants or are members of Devil’s inner circle, could know about this secret transaction. Since the author(s) of the article, “Sricharan Singh” and/or those scholars who constitute this identity belong to that privileged class, they also know that their lord had awarded the highest imaginable punishment to me. Hence they should spare themselves the exercise of inventing and heaping on this unfortunate soul more and more lies, distortions and exaggerations as punishment. They do not presume to improve upon the Devil’s action against me!
But I do not wish to confuse readers with sarcasm or vague assertions. I was shocked at the level to which this “Singh” had stooped. I wish he had the courage to reveal his verifiable identity; I could have then asked him to prove his accusations against me, face to face. However, I will put the facts straightaway for those of your readers who truly look for truth. A disciple of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, I am an optimist. I believe that even among those who constitute the entity “Singh”, there are individuals who are only temporarily misguided. I place the facts in good faith. Readers may accept them or reject them.
About Peter’s book: At the early stage of the controversy I was under the impression that some people had persuaded his publishers to issue a revised edition of his book and that is why I pointed out elements that could be eliminated or recast. But before long I understood that the book was only a pretext and the anti-book champions had motives that were not only dubious but ominous. The book could hardly be a factor to arouse the sentiments of people who had not read the book and to make them sit in Dharna against the Trust and once they sat, to place a huge placard listing so many imaginary lapses of the Ashram Trust thereby creating an impression that the Dharna-participants were also supporting the allegations. They (mostly visitors) understood nothing of them. A few who woke up to the deception being perpetrated on them withdrew and regretted their passive co-operation with the Dharna-makers.
So far as I am concerned I had gathered enough knowledge of such contemptible tricks in my pre-Ashram days because of my involvement in politics. But I never expected such tricks to be enacted in the Ashram. I stood aghast and am still surprised that people claiming to be devotees of the Mother could initiate such a move. My feeling is, there is a general drop in the level of collective consciousness. I have said this and I say this now. Needless to say, the collective consciousness excludes neither me nor you.
I certainly believe that no institution can be called an Ashram unless it runs either by the Guru or the Will left by the Guru. This is not only an unalterable principle at work behind a genuine Ashram, but also a matter of sheer common sense. Hence, I am afraid, those who are contesting the Mother’s Will are preys of some dark forces. I guess that some among them do not understand the consequence of their action. I have no hatred for them and I would not use epithets “Sricharan Singh” imagines I use. Hateful epithets have been used against me in Odia (one of which you have quoted) by a gentleman, but you cannot show a single such abusive word used by me against anybody. I was shocked not because I was abused in that manner, but because that gentleman could degrade himself so low as to be able to write such mean things – that his own hand collaborated!
I will naturally support the Trust, inside or outside the court, in its struggle to safeguard the Mother’s Will and save the fundamental principles of the Ashram. I have no interest in pleasing “Gupta Manoj” as you wish your readers to believe. In no way can he help me “to achieve power, prestige, awards and monetary gain”. They are achievable in a different sphere into which “Gupta Manoj” has no access. My interest is the sanctity of the Mother’s Will and the dignity of the Ashram, against which some people have gone to court. They have also run to local govt. officials, carrying with them a motley mob, under the stewardship of a local politico. They go on spreading unspeakable scandals through various means – tens of thousands of copies of defamatory leaflets, websites, wandering emissaries, so on and so forth, spending huge amounts of money received from mysterious sources.
How much I wish that they made a little introspection while taking recourse to such steps – the very purpose of their living in the Ashram.
“Sricharan Singh” has repeated that old old lie about the Ashram lawyer saying at the Krishnanagore court that the Mother did not understand Savitri! The lawyer said nothing of that kind. He has also given a statement challenging this allegation against him. Still the drum-beaters of that lie do not stop. Years ago when two small groups of people distributed leaflets against me on this issue, I was surprised that while these people believed somebody from far who transmitted that blatant lie as a gift for them, they did not have the patience or a bit of respect for truth to ask me about it though I was amidst them, an inmate of the Ashram like them. They even sent a lawyer’s notice to the Trust to expel me from the Ashram on this account.
By and by it became clear to me that all they wanted was to create an atmosphere of hatred against me. But what for? It remains inexplicable to him. I was for a while representing the Ashram in the courts where several cases were filed against the Trust because it brought out a revised version of the Master’s epic, Savitri. It was ‘revised’ in the sense that errors (typographical, punctuation, omission, words not properly deciphered in corrected proofs, etc) were removed through years of study and scrutiny. When, as a purely academic exercise a booklet was published by the Ashram Archives listing the changes, it suddenly struck a gentleman to drag the Trust to the court alleging that it had tampered with Sri Aurobindo’s writing. (What may sound incredible to many, he even discovered an unknown nephew of Sri Aurobindo and made him go to court and suggest by insinuation that he was the copyright-owner of all the works of Sri Aurobindo, not the Ashram. By implication, all the earnings from the works of the Master over the past years were his!)
I was convinced that the Revised Edition of the epic is the most authentic one. Once again it is a matter of common sense that the Ashram had no reason to alter a single word of Sri Aurobindo. On the other hand it had a responsibility to see that error-free versions of His works were available before the copyright period expired. That is what Ashram did despite the illogical and superfluous commotion made by some people.
They even collected an old Flight Boarding Pass used by me and reproduced it in a leaflet, saying that Manoj Das travelled in First Class by Air, wasting the Ashram money! Couldn’t have they ascertained from our own audit and accounts department if I had drawn that money? The fact is, that ticket had been sent to me by Indian Council of Cultural Affairs for my attending an important literary event. I was puzzled; the man who circulated this lie was my student and was in excellent relationship with me. Why on earth must he take recourse to such a downright lie? I still remain puzzled on this question.
“Sricharan Singh” has quoted Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya who used the word ‘Stupid’ for me. Indeed, I was and continue to be stupid in many respects. Otherwise I would not have tried to make Pranab-ji see his folly. Now also I am probably proving my stupidity when I am trying to correct “Sricharan Singh”. However, I hope, those who constitute this latest entity christened “Sricharan Singh” know the background of my conflict with Pranab-ji. They also cannot be ignorant of the fact that Pranab-ji could use awful and offensive words even before the Mother. Only the Divine Mother knows the sublime reasons why She had to keep with Her samples of such unpredictable nature; we cannot explain that. I fought with Pranab-ji for a cause, not for any interest of mine. Pranab-ji decided to throw a little boy out of the School for no fault of his, nor for any fault at all of anybody else. People say that one of Pranab-ji’s confidants had a grudge against the child’s father. I do not know. As a Trustee I refused to agree with Pranab-ji’s arbitrary decision. Hats off to the courage of the late Parou Patil, a Trustee as well as the Registrar of the SAICE who took a firm stand and retained the student in the School defying Pranab-ji who then did not allow the poor boy to participate in physical activities till the boy completed his studies. Even today I shudder to think about the shock the boy must have received when, after the classes, all his friends would go to the Corner House for refreshment and then to the Playground or Sports ground, but he must be deprived of that luck.
In the Divine’s scheme of things Pranab-ji must have represented something very important. Even at our level of understanding Pranab-ji had so many great qualities to his credit, but in order to show me in bad light you are bringing to light one of his most discreditable actions. You would not do this if you really had respect for him. But I respect him. Despite my difference with him I have until now never discussed this issue publicly. You in your wisdom obliged me to speak about it today.
I resigned as a Trustee because I saw that there would be frequent conflict between Pranab-ji and me. I was a known rebel in my youth and one of the executives of the only nation-wide students’ organisation of the time. I had suffered jail and harassment for my radical actions against authoritarian dictates of the powerful. But the day I decided to seek the Mother’s gracious permission to join the Ashram, I also silently decided that whenever a situation arises requiring me to take a stand, I will do so, but never create a hullabaloo if my opinion or view does not prevail. I will step aside. The difference between the Ashram and any other institution is, the Mother’s Grace runs the Ashram, I can only do my duty, according to my conscience. If someone is wrong, he or she will face the consequence in terms of his or her progress in consciousness; the spiritual law will decide it, no human law. I must not run to a collector or a court to set things in my favour. I must not try to usurp the role of the Divine Grace which alone can change human nature. Things coming to worse for me, I should quit the Ashram, but not damage its image, not create confusion in the minds of other inmates, nor treat the Mother’s home as an ordinary organisation.
And there remains that perplexing basic question: The Mother built the Ashram for those who aspired to live an inner life, disregarding petty difficulties at the material plane. Even then She organised it in a way whereby our material difficulties could be reduced to the minimum. Nobody can say that the Trust, since the physical absence of the Mother, has failed in this regard. Who then is stopping us from pursuing our spiritual goal, who is standing in the way of our achieving our goal? The Trustees do not claim to be Gurus; The Gurus – the Master and the Mother – have left for us the keys leading to the solution of all our psychological problems concerning our inner pursuit; Their guidance is always available to us in the subtle and occult way. Why then this anarchy? Can the Trustees, can anybody in the world, stop our Sadhana here?
“Sricharan Singh” has given a funny interpretation to my writing the life of Sri Aurobindo in the Odia magazine of the Ashram, the Naba Prakash. My efforts at compiling a comprehensive biography of Sri Aurobindo go back to 1971 when I found materials of great importance in the Archives of London and Edinburgh. My humble research continued over the past four decades and I launched the series in the Mother India only when I was satisfied that I had collected an abundance of valuable materials. A number of scholars are pursuing it and I receive warm encouragements. What is published in the Naba Prakash is its translation in smaller parts. “Sricharan Singh” is right: There was nothing on the surface of the Master’s life for us to write about it. That is so far as his life as the Mahayogi and his subtle actions as the Avatar were concerned. But there is so much on the surface to reveal to us a personality magnificently nonpareil that even during his life-time authors were not able to check their temptation to write about it. I am one of those disobedient devotees in this regard praying for the Master’s pardon and also greatly enthused by the Mother’s loving reaction to my gathering surface facts from the archives. I am happy that I am at least able to dispel some of the wrong ideas about the Master’s lofty political ideas and their execution in the first decade of the 20th century. Traditional historians did no justice to that era of India’s struggle for freedom.
“Sricharan Singh” insinuates as if I was eager to take over the editorship of the Naba Prakash. Had I the slightest interest for that I would have got it in the normal course of things from the very beginning. I had edited several magazines beginning from my School days, the last being what was acknowledged as India’s most prestigious monthly, The Heritage. No, I am no more capable of performing editorial task. It is a very unkind and immature mind that would think that I am the de facto editor of the Naba Prakash. No; I only contribute article to it. I had nothing to do with the earlier editor’s departure from his task.
Yes, “Sricharan Singh” has reminded me of “a respected and senior Oriya lady of the Ashram” writing to me something regarding Peter’s book. I had forgotten that she had written in English, and that I replied in Odia. I never suspected that she had suddenly forgotten our mother-tongue or that I was thereby foiling a well-planned move! Well, she is Odia and whenever we met we talked in Odia. In my wildest imagination it could not have occurred to me that a motive would be attributed to my writing in Odia to an Odia correspondent so well-known to me. Now I realise that making her write in English was a strategy by her prompters to elicit a reply from me in English which would have come handy for misinterpretation. Sorry, she could have instructed me to write in English. How do I know that she wrote on behalf of the entire “Sricharan Singh”?
I am afraid I cannot go on at this rate, responding to not-too-clear points and statements that are steeped in cheap mockery. One last issue: who is the lawyer who came to see me? I simply do not know who Peter’s lawyer is; it is a lie that he asked my address and an Ashramite replied derisively. No Ashramite would do such a thing unless she was a constituent of “Sricharan Singh”. I say, it is a shameless lie that he met me. And how did this “Sricharan Singh” know the conversation between the visitor and I? If the visitor was Peter’s lawyer, he surely could not have reported it to an anti-Peter Singh! Once again I assert that this complete lie is a sample of the mindset of those wearing the mask of “Sricharan Singh” The imagery they have used betrays their culture.
Now about “an ex-student/inmate of the Ashram who used to often reproach me” to use “Sricharan Singh” s words. Here is what happened: whenever this ex-student would pass by me, he would mumble something which I could not follow. He was my student for a year or so and his sister was my student for a longer period of time. What is more, his father was a good friend of mine. Naturally I look at the boy with a spontaneous affection, but his abnormal expression intrigued me. I became alert and only then on two occasions I heard him throwing awfully nasty phrases at me, casting furtive and rather odd glances at me. I was astounded and I felt sad. I had nothing but goodwill for him. One day I stopped him on the way and first sought his permission if I could give him a suggestion. He agreed. Next I made him promise that he would not speak about it to anybody. He readily promised not to speak about it to anybody. Only then I warned him about the consequence of his conduct. It is a well-known occult law that if anybody abuses someone who had not only done him no harm but also wished him well, Nemesis will strike him. I also told him confidentially something which is a fact – but I told him only after he promised to keep it to himself. Indeed, I meant what I said. But he has given a bit of dramatic touch to it saying that if I had a guru why did I come here. No, I had not spoken of any guru; I had none before Sri Aurobindo. He has only invented a retort to exhibit his wit.
He will face the consequence of his betraying his own promise, his vulgar utterances and actions. You will yours and I mine. There is no escape from this law of Karma – except for the Supreme’s Grace.
What a wide range of knowledge this “Sricharan Singh” had encompassed! It is wonderful that he should refer to my brother-in-law Biswambhar’s property consisting of a piece of land and a house which someone was trying to usurp and I had to try recover it because Biswambhar has remained sick for long at his native place. The usurper, through a friend of the credulous Biswambhar, had obtained a set of keys of the house under the pretext that he would conduct some free literacy classes for the poor children of that locality. Once Biswambhar and his friend were out of sight, the usurper treated the house as his own and refused to part with the key.
Probably “Sricharan Singh” would have sat in a Dharna before the usurper’s house or, more ideally, would have invited the usurper to take away yet another property of his. Well, all I did was to inform the police – and that too through another gentleman who would be willing to undertake any trouble for Biswambhar. The case – not three but one to the best of my knowledge – was filed not by me or that gentleman, but by the police. The land was recovered.
Land-grabbing is common nowadays. But it was a small affair. One day, when this conflict was going on, a journalist showed me a few photographs of a Dharna offered in front of the Post Office, by three or four people brought by the usurper who claimed to be an office-bearer of a political party (not the Communist Party of India as mentioned by “Sricharan Singh”), but the said party disowned his deed. A few passers-by looked at that common sight without any curiosity. But I was intrigued and amused to recognise in the pictures, at least one grim face – a quite familiar one. Thank you, “Sricharan Singh”! Now I stand enlightened. The journalist informed me that he was requested to flash that great news. But the journalist thought it to be too challenging a task, though very interesting, to make a report on a situation where a burglar offers a Dharna with the demand that he should be allowed to burgle someone’s house! Now it is clear who were the inspiration behind this Dharna which was unique in the history of Dharnas and Satyagrahas.
Dear Editors, if I have written this much, it is only with the hope that some of your readers might be expecting some clarifications or statements from me. I would not like to descend into the exercise again. From the time of the cases filed against the revised edition of Savitri till today a concerted effort by a group of people has been going on to destabilise the Ashram. The Ashram Trust has withstood the onslaught. The inmates of the Ashram, barring a few misguided ones, have tolerated them quietly. Probably these things are natural in the present atmosphere of India as well as the world – an atmosphere marked by falsehood, dishonesty, ingratitude, violence and inconscience. Providence alone knows how and when this phase of Time will end.
So far as the impatient “Sricharan Singh” and his likes are concerned, they went to the court on several counts; let them quietly wait for the law to take its course and stop billing out ever-new lies and distortions.