31 Aug 2013

Former HC judge to probe irregularities at Aurobindo Ashram ― The Hindu

THE HINDU, Chennai, Saturday, August 31, 2013
Chennai:  Justice P.R. Raman of Kochi, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, will enquire into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.

An order to this effect was passed by Justice K.K. Sasidharan of the Madras High Court on a writ petition by the ashram trust. The trust was aggrieved by the territorial government’s action in nominating the Puducherry Collector to enquire into the ashram affairs following complaints by some ashram inmates and a local legislator, to flare up the issue.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan directed the Puducherry Chief Secretary to treat the enquiry officer (EO) as a State Guest and provide him all required facilities for conducting an impartial enquiry.

The ashram and others should extend their cooperation to the officer to hold the enquiry in a free atmosphere. The inmates should be given full freedom to express their views and grievances.

The EO would also enquire whether there was alleged violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates, whether there was misappropriation of ashram funds and whether there was truth in the allegation of illegal sale and lease of ashram property by the trustees.

Counsel submitted that the ashram was not against any enquiry with regard to the complaints. Its objection was only against the Collector conducting the enquiry with a pre-determined mind.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan said there was no dispute that the ashram was an institution of international repute. The issues raised by some ashram members, MLA Ashok Anand, and others should not result in lowering the ashram’s image. The Ashram’s sanctity should be preserved at any cost.  Since the petitioner and the authorities had agreed on the enquiry by Mr. Justice Raman, he was of the view that the former Judge should be appointed as EO.

Sathya Sri Priya Easwaran, an advocate of Kochi, suggested by the EO, has been appointed to record the statements of women inmates of the ashram.

The High Court restrained the parties to the writ petition from raising the issues now referred to the EO in any other forum or in any other manner pending enquiry proceedings. The EO should conclude the enquiry as expeditiously as possible and submit a report to the High Court.

The matter has been posted for November 4.

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30 Aug 2013

An Appeal to all the Children of Mother and Sri Aurobindo ― Dr Gayatri

As devotees and disciples of the Mother and Sri Aurobindo and practitioners of the Integral Yoga, we have one important prerequisite condition: faith in their Teaching. With this conviction I start with a quote from the Mother:

“My point of view is this, that anything written by a sadhak about Sri Aurobindo which brings him down to an ordinary level and admits the reader to a sort of gossiping familiarity with him is an unfaithfulness to Him and His work.”
[MCW, Vol. 13, p.27]

So the book The Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs is in the Mother’s view an act of unfaithfulness to Sri Aurobindo and His work. If we consider the Mother as the head of Sri Aurobindo Ashram, the Trustees of His Ashram and the supporters of the book have deliberately ignored Her point of view showing utter disregard to Her. By supporting and promoting the author of the book, they have become unfaithful to Sri Aurobindo and His work. This is no doubt a grave problem. The Trustees avoided the problem by maintaining a fake “dignified silence” in front, but went on supporting the author and dishonoured the court verdict. All the senior sadhaks and sadhikas of the Ashram remain plunged in their “sadhana” of tamasic surrender and so-called “absolute faith” in the Mother. Five long years were given to them to take a conscious decision. Alas, nothing disturbed their routine! They did not take the trouble to brood over what the Mother meant by the New Year message of 1967:

“Men, countries, continents! The choice is imperative: Truth or the abyss.”
[MCW, Vol. 15, p.175]

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26 Aug 2013

Third Poster Against the Ashram Trust – Sridharan

Manoj Das Gupta should voluntarily step down from the post of the Managing Trustee before the Government intervenes.  Another poster in Tamil, this time with only his photograph, has come out on the streets of Puducherry. The poster asks a very pertinent question to the Puducherry Government. Why is the Govt afraid of acting against Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust? Why cannot the Govt protect the inmates of the Ashram? The poster has been issued in the name of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Inmates’ Association. (See below for photographs of the poster.)

It is strange that despite all the brouhaha by the supporters of the Ashram Trust, not one of them dares to suggest publicly an internal solution to the present crisis. Not one of them, including the alumni association of The Golden Chain Fraternity, dares to whisper an internal restructuring of the Ashram administration to cope with the present situation, which anyway is rapidly going out of control. Recently, on 12 August, 2013 Ramraj Sehgal, the Secretary of the GCF issued a statement fully in favour of the Trustees as if he and his associates had no individuality of their own. Ramraj Sehgal in fact hid himself behind his indecipherable signature without even typing his name above it. If this is the fear instilled in him by the present Trustees, what can we expect of the other ex-students? And what can we expect of the oppressed silent majority of the inmates who are fully dependent on the Ashram Trust for their basic needs?
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19 Aug 2013

The Case for a Govt Administrator for Sri Aurobindo Ashram ― by Baikunth

Many people have expressed their strong reservations about a Government takeover of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. But there are good reasons to believe that a Government takeover would be far better than the present administration of the Ashram.

The Auroville Example
Let me first point out the living example of Auroville where things are certainly much better off with a Govt administrator than the present state of affairs at the Ashram from the point of view of transparency, accountability and democracy. It is true that it would have been better had there been no government intervention even in Auroville, but this is merely a speculation of not much use now. The speculation also presupposes ideal conditions and does not take into account the human factors that made the takeover inevitable. The then management of Auroville refused to listen to the demands of the Aurovillians and the latter had no other recourse left but to appeal to the Government. Whose fault was it? Will the Aurovillians now say that they should not have fought for their rights and that they should have submitted themselves silently to the rule of Sri Aurobindo Society?

A similar situation has developed in Sri Aurobindo Ashram with perhaps more complications than in the case of Auroville.
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12 Aug 2013

Analysis of the Preface of Peter Heehs’ The Lives of Sri Aurobindo, CUP, 2008 (Part 2) – A Zombified Disciple


Note: In this analysis, as in the previous, Peter’s words are in Italics and mine are in Roman.

Peter’s Attitude and Approach–D): (1) I first encountered Aurobindo [in an April 1950 photo] in 1968 in a yoga center on 57th Street in Manhattan…I did not find it particularly remarkable…. A few months later…I found myself in another yoga centre…on Central Park West. Here there were just three pictures on the wall, one of them the standard portrait of Aurobindo (Figure 1). I was struck by the peaceful expanse of his brow, his trouble-free face, and fathomless eyes. It would be years before I learned that all these features owed their distinctiveness to the retoucher’s art…. (2) Figure 2 is photograph of Aurobindo taken around the same time as Figure 1. Note the dark, pockmarked skin, sharp features, and undreamy eyes. (3) As far as I know, it did not appear in print before 1976, when I published it in an ashram journal. (4) To me Figure 2 is infinitely more appealing than Figure 1. (5) There is hardly a trace of a shadow between the ears, with the result that the face has no character. The sparkling eyes have been painted in; even the hair has been given a gloss. As a historical document it is false. As a photograph it is a botched piece of work. (6) But for many, Figure 1 is more true to Aurobindo than Figure 2. (7) In later life, his complexion became fair and smooth, his features full and round. Figure 2 thus falsifies the “real” Aurobindo. (8) It is the task of the retoucher to make the photograph accord with the reality that people want to see. Hagiographers deal with documents the way that retouchers deal with photographs. Biographers must take their documents as they find them.
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2 Aug 2013

Scabs Beneath The Serenity – Imran Khan (Telhelka)

The world-renowned Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry has come under a cloud with inmates making serious allegations against the trustees. Imran Khan reports:

All is not well with the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, a well-known institution for the spiritually inclined, with the state government considering a proposal to take over its administration from the hands of the trustees. With several allegations of inmates facing sexual and other forms of harassment coming to light, the ashram’s image of piety is under threat.

Last year, more than 50 inmates submitted written complaints to the district collector as part of a probe into what goes on inside the ashram. The Puducherry government had ordered the probe after the Union Minister for Women and Child Welfare Krishna Tirath wrote to Chief Minister N Rangaswamy, following several complaints from the inmates. The probe, though, could not be carried forward as the ashram management moved the court questioning the jurisdiction of the Puducherry administration over matters concerning the ashram. Currently, the case is pending with the Madras High Court.

TEHELKA is in possession of the testimonies submitted by the 50-odd inmates to District Collector SB Deepak Kumar in September last year. The testimonies lay bare a long list of sexual harassment and cruel treatment of the ashram’s residents. “We had been receiving several complaints even before the inquiry started,” says Kumar. “Most of it related to financial irregularities, which is not our concern, and so we did not pay attention. However, serious complaints of sexual harassment and physical torture surfaced after we started the probe.”
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