There are about half a dozen members of the SAICE forum who always take centre stage whenever somebody dares to say anything against the present Ashram Trustees. These are stooges of the Trustees with their own vested interests, who pour venom and vitriol on their target far beyond the range of normal human decency, while the other members of the SAICE forum silently (and shamelessly) watch the pyrotechnics of the show. Their vicious attack on Dr. Gayatri for her bold and sincere letter to all the devotees and disciples of the Mother was therefore expected. The attack only proves that the letter was good, perhaps excellent, and had the potential danger of bringing clarity to the confused minds of the Ashramites, for the Ashram Trustees would certainly like them to be in a permanent state of confusion. The last big event on this forum opened with a long and boring diatribe of Arindam Das, which was full of conceit and standard clichés. His colleagues naturally clapped their hands in delight and made more snide and distasteful remarks on Dr Gayatri. I personally let out a big yawn at this usual exercise in character assassination, which reminds me of how children quarrel in middle school. I suppose these students of the Ashram School have never gone beyond that level. What else can they do! I reproduce Arindam Das’s hate speech in full and give my reactions and answers to the various issues he raises.
Arindam Das (SAICE forum): Anyone reading Dr. Gayatri’s article in TLOSA blog will notice a desperate attempt by Jayant, Sraddhalu, Raman and others in their camp to take the moral high ground once again.
Sridharan: It is because Dr Gayatri’s article had a huge effect on the Ashramites that Arindam Das is desperately trying to counter it with his scathing remarks on her credibility. I am sure he has been instructed by the Trustees to do so. Most of the inmates of the Ashram were Dr. Gayatri’s patients until she chose to confront the Trustees. She worked for 13 years as a resident physician at the Ashram Nursing Home and everybody has good things to say about her 24x7 medical service. I would not be surprised if she has treated the family of Arindam Das, who by now would have conveniently forgotten all about it. The same kind of utter ingratitude was shown by the spiteful Alo Pal (another “glorious” ex-student!), who took nasty digs at Radhikaranjan Das despite the fact that he had treated her daughter with homeopathic remedies.
Arindam Das: They tried doing this five years back by deliberately creating a controversy over Peter’s book, by spreading outright lies about the book, the author and the Trustees, and projecting themselves to be the ‘hero warriors’ who were out to slain asuras.
Sridharan: It was Manoj Das Gupta who deliberately created the controversy. I remind Arindam Das that around 500 signatures were obtained in two days flat for a petition asking the Trustees to condemn the Lives of Sri Aurobindo and remove Peter Heehs from the Archives. The petition was first signed by the late Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, who was a close attendant of the Mother for more than 20 years. When he passed away in January 2010, his body was given a guard of honour by the group members of the Ashram Physical Education Dept.
What is this “out to slain Asuras”?
Arindam Das: They toyed with people’s devotion and aroused emotions of unsuspecting inmates inside the Ashram and devotees outside the Ashram. The ulterior aim was always to breed antagonism towards the Trust and channelizing that antagonism to overthrow the present Trustees.
Sridharan: The inmates were fully conscious when they signed and protested against Peter Heehs’s book. Even now, hold a confidential vote on the issue, and it will be thumbs down for P.H. There was no ulterior aim except the love and devotion to their Master that made the devotees and inmates sign the petition. In fact, there seems to be an ulterior motive behind the Trust’s decision to support Peter Heehs, for the Trust was never happy about the content of the book. It disassociated itself from it twice and once wrote that it had taken the necessary action against the author of the book.
Arindam Das: Peter’s book was always the smoke cover. Behind the smoke screen, this bunch of ambitious, jealous, perverted men and women schemed and connived, masterminded every little move to take control of the Trust. The likes of ‘Renganaths’ and ‘Kittu Reddys’, who have no business to be in the Ashram, given their naked ambition and propensity for politicking, took advantage of the disruption and bolstered the movement. Not to be left behind, the eternal dissenters like ‘Srikants’ and ‘Pillus’ of ‘inmates association’ fame joined in and a grand alliance was formed. If it was not possible to grab power legally, then every other method was to be used, even if it meant destroying the basic nature of the Ashram and selling it to politicians and businessmen.
Sridharan: What a boring hate speech! No need to make comments. This is precisely where I let out the big yawn!
“Ranganath”, sir, not “Renganath”! Please don’t make such mistakes when you get carried away by the “inspired” flow of your political rant.
Arindam Das: Fortunately, people saw through this game and rejected the controversy over the book, both inside and outside the Ashram. Today, this controversy lies buried.
Sridharan: Thank God, the book is buried in India by a gazette notification passed by the Govt of Orissa.
Arindam Das: Dr. Gayatri’s attempt to revive this under the garb of ‘denigration’ is a last-ditch effort to resurrect a ghost that never existed in the first place.
Sridharan: The truth of the controversy behind the book has enlarged itself into other domains of moral and financial turpitude. Why is the Ashram Trust now facing a host of allegations ranging from sexual molestation to shady property deals? It is not only the ghost of the controversy over Peter Heehs’s book, but all the ghosts of the past that have risen up again from their graves. Manoj Das Gupta and Dr. Dilip Datta will have to pay now for the sins of their past administration.
Arindam Das: Dr. Gayatri can take the loudest of the loud speakers and yell from the tallest building in the world, and yet all that she will attract are passing crows. And we all know what passing crows are capable of dropping.
Sridharan: What a flight of imagination! Arindam Das seems to have been sufficiently bombed by the crows for having brought up so vividly the topic of crow droppings.
Arindam Das: It is also noteworthy that some prominent members of our community such as Alok Pandey, Anand Reddy, Vijay Poddar, Pradeep Narang, who were the loudest voices some years back, seem to have gone into hibernation. These self-appointed ideologues claimed that their hearts burnt in a rage of white psychic fire at the site of the book and saw dark clouds around it. These are the people who are directly responsible for abetting the likes of Sraddhalu, Raman and Jayant to embark on their campaign. These are the people who aided people like Jayant to create the smoke screen behind which he could carry out his machinations. Today, this lot is maintaining a stoic silence as if they are mere witnesses to a part of the history that they were never a part of. Undoubtedly, if there is any group of people who have lost complete credibility today, it is this lot. The likes of Sraddhalu, Jayant, Kittu Reddy never had any credibility. But for these people, they had everything to lose, starting with the aura of being ‘senior members’ in the community to being ‘leading luminaries’ on Sri Aurobindo’s yoga. Today, people simply don’t care about their common-place ideas and values. They have ceased to be relevant.
Sridharan: Why take so many people at a time: Alok Pandey, Anand Reddy, Vijay Poddar, Pradeep Narang, Sraddhalu, Raman, Jayant, Dr Gayatri, and the already mentioned Pillu & Srikant, Ranganath & Kittu Reddy? I advise Arindam to take more easy bites than bite at a time more than he can chew! Moreover, it is not good politics to criticise those who have fallen silent due to the rising temperature of the conflict. Why play the bully with your sleeping enemies? What if one day they all come back at you thirsty for revenge, reminding you of your rash behaviour? Don’t put on a sheepish grin when that happens as you are generally prone to do!
Arindam Das: Dr. Gayatri represents the most perverted side of the movement, a movement that Jayant, Sraddhalu, Raman and others have meticulously planned to hit systematically below the belt. Only time will tell if persistent manipulations and sordid allegations will win the day. So far, if not anything else, these wild allegations have succeeded in convincing some people to look at the Ashram through the prism of some common and established administrative standards. What and how much of these standards needs to be applied to an institution like the Ashram where people are meant to pursue individual sadhana will always remain a matter of debate. This debate aside, the current administrative setup of the Ashram forms part of the basic nature of the Ashram which was sanctioned by The Mother. This will always remain non-negotiable.
Sridharan: At last, you have spoken some sense. You say that it remains “a matter of debate” if common and established administrative standards should be applied to the Ashram. Now that you have posed a serious question, I will give my opinion. If the Ashramites are really pursuing the sadhana, then common administrative norms and standards may not apply in certain cases. But it does not mean that you throw morality to the winds and break the laws of the land. Would you, for example, disregard a molestation case or sign a forged sale deed as happened with the Raghavan house, because of which Manoj Das Gupta had to seek anticipatory bail? The truth of the matter is that such situations would never have arisen if the Ashramites were really doing their sadhana. It is because spirituality has taken a backseat in the Ashram that things are going haywire.
Certainly, Mother never sanctioned the mismanagement of the current administrative setup. In fact, there is no current administrative setup whatsoever; it is only one man’s rule, or at the most the rule of three men: Manoj Das Gupta, Dr. Dilip Datta and Matriprasad. The little administrative setup that is there is only a farce of committees that never operate or have no powers at all.
Arindam Das: As to Dr. Gayatri’s call for a government take-over, we all know what governments are capable of. The recent bandh called by the local traders in Pondicherry was a proof how secure a government can make the citizens feel. Dr. Gayatri has to show one government department that can be considered as a role model of administrative propriety. Whom is she trying to hoodwink?
Sridharan: It is not that we expect ideal governance from the Govt administrator. It is because anything is better than the present administration of the Ashram that we would rather have the Govt administrator. He will at least follow certain rules and procedures, will think twice before removing people abruptly from their workplace as MDG has done, will be more accountable to the inmates, and will anyway be changed every two to three years. The present disposition of the Ashram administration is highly dictatorial, whimsical and it does not even believe in giving any answers to legitimate questions. Only the Mother with her supreme wisdom should command such overwhelming powers that the Trustees presently enjoy. Only her decisions can be accepted unconditionally by her disciples and devotees. Any other person in her place is bound to land himself into trouble. With lesser mortals like all of us, checks and balances are needed, so that the institution is not hijacked by a single person or a small group.
Arindam Das: Instead of lecturing us on the merits of government take-over, she must first learn to realise her responsibility as a medical practitioner. The government subsidized her medical education so that she could take care of patients. Instead, she has put her personal interest above the interest of the patients by resigning from the Nursing Home on the grounds of her unhappiness over the book.
Sridharan: There, Arindam has started pompously lecturing Dr Gayatri on her medical responsibilities! Dr. Gayatri was a gold medallist when she left a lucrative career as a medical practitioner and joined the Ashram for the sake of dedicating herself to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother’s work. But she did not join the Ashram to serve the Trustees, especially when they go against the Master himself. Arindam Das studied in the Ashram School, went out, got married, had a child and admitted her in the Ashram School because of the totally free education that is given there. What has he sacrificed? Nothing at all! Oh yes, he ensured the admission of his children by publicly haranguing those who have gone against the Trustees. (That is now the standard means of ingratiating yourself with the Trustees in order to obtain favours from them.) I am sure he and his wife will soon be rewarded and made Ashramites for doing this wonderful service, after which they will enjoy the best of both worlds, as is the case with many ex-students now. How lucky they are! It is like Yoga without tears, free progress and free regress at the same time!
Arindam Das: The detractors, including those from outside who are looking at the Ashram with lust and greed, must have realized by this time that today they are faced with a resistance that they did not anticipate. The spontaneous visit to the MLAs house was only a small demonstration of what the average person in the community is capable of if pushed to a corner.
Sridharan: The 120 people who visited the MLA’s house were first of all a minority compared to the 1200 inmates of the Ashram. Then most of them were ex-students and parents who have admitted their children in the Ashram school. The video shows them asking the MLA the silliest questions in a most disrespectful manner. If this can be called a success, then so be it. I hear now that the parents, who have admitted their children in the Ashram School, have been forced to sign a petition asking the Govt not to intervene in the affairs of the Ashram.
Arindam Das: Dr. Gayatri can claim that the ‘whole country’ is raising its voice but no amount of hyperbole can hide the fact that the 20 odd disoriented men and women who are running around in the courts and in the Assembly with armbands and wristbands look quite miserable.
Sridharan: The few men and women who have raised their voice against the Trustees represent the majority of the Ashramites who suffer in silence due to the fear of retribution. They are waiting for the day when the present dictator will be forcibly removed from his chair by the Govt. When that happens, the likes of Arindam will either disappear or change their allegiance overnight. He might even turn around in the new dispensation and blast the Trustees and praise Dr. Gayatri for her courage and sincerity!