27 Oct 2013

Press Release Issued by Thiru Ashok Anand, M.L.A., on 26 October, 2013


Sri Aurobindo Ashram is known all over world as the home of Sri Aurobindo’s unique and pathbreaking Integral Yoga. Sri Aurobindo Ashram is also the Pride of Puducherry and occupies a central position in its cultural and spiritual landscape.

Sri Aurobindo Ashram is administered by Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust with five Trustees at the helm of affairs. There is no election or democratic selection process of these Trustees. Trustees remain Trustees for life and have no accountability.

While Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust is a Public Charitable Trust, it does not come under the R.T.I.

As per various reports, the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust occupies over 60% of Puducherry’s prime real estate valued at over Rs.10,000 crores by very conservative estimates. It receives hundreds of crores in donations every year as also Income Tax Exemptions from the Central Government and various benefits from the Government of Puducherry.

Over the last 10 years, there have been consistent and serious reports of violations of human rights, sexual harrasement and serious crimes against women, financial mismanagement and evasion of taxes, etc, and all in the name of God.

The Trustees are involved in hundreds of legal cases all over India. The Managing Trustee is currently out on bail for forgery in a land grabbing case and the children of other Trustees are allegedly involved in shady real estate transactions involving crores of rupees in Public Funds. Annually, the Trustees spend crores of rupees in legal fees from Public Funds in order to defend themselves individually.
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24 Oct 2013

Inquiry into allegations against Ashram begins ― The Hindu (24 October, 2013)

T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, retired Judge of Kerala High Court, who was appointed by the Madras High Court in the place of Justice P.R. Raman to look into allegations of sexual harassment of women, children and others at Sri Aurobindo Ashram, began the inquiry on Wednesday.

Justice Raman was relieved of the responsibility as he expressed inability to complete the probe within three months.

He was of the view that it would take at least six months to complete the process.

About 50 persons including complainants and respondents from inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust appeared before Mr. Iyer when he began the inquiry at a training hall of the Chief Secretariat here. Sizeable number of women also appeared before him.

The next hearing is likely in the first week of December.

As per the Madras High Court direction, the inquiry would focus on whether allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in the Ashram were true and whether there was any truth in the allegation regarding violation of human rights and denial of fundamental rights to the inmates.

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23 Oct 2013

Correspondence between Manoj Das and Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya in June 1994 (2)

[We publish the second letter that Manoj Das wrote to Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya on 15 June, 1994 (read the first letter in the previous post). Manoj Das got the rudest shock of his life when Dada wrote back, “I have read your letter dated 15.6.94. Now I am absolutely convinced that you are a fool and an idiot.” [emphasis added] Manoj Das still persisted, “I feel tempted to agree with you. Indeed, had I not been a fool and an idiot, I would not perhaps have made an effort to make you reason our actions in a wider perspective.” He ended with a final call for harmony and reason in a third and final letter to Dada, whom he considered (despite the beating he received from him) “to be someone very special”. He then took up the matter with Harikant Patel, the then Managing Trustee, who did not want to intervene. It is said that Manoj Das then honourably resigned from Trusteeship for “the sake of upholding truth and justice”, but it was not exactly so. According to people close him, he resigned in a dramatic way to make a big public scene and put pressure on Harikant Patel, which unfortunately did not happen as envisaged by him. Instead his resignation was quietly accepted by the Managing Trustee, making it impossible for him to come back again into the Ashram Trust Board. Both Harikant Patel and Manoj Das Gupta, the present Managing Trustee, badly let him down in this matter. It is perhaps because of this humble pie he had to eat, along with the ignominy of having been insulted by one of the closest attendants of the Mother and one of her most respected disciples, that Manoj Das learnt the political lesson of his life ― never to go against the Establishment. The proof of my conjecture is in the fact that he now so faithfully toes the line of the Trustees despite their going astray from the central tenets of the Ashram.  How many times he has repeated that the Trustees can never be wrong despite their human weaknesses, how many times he has defended their wrong decisions with regard to the administration of the Ashram!  But what about his own case of confrontation with Dada in June 1994? If he says he was certainly right in going against Dada at that time, then why should he raise objections now with regard to those who are presently confronting the Trustees? Bireshwar]
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17 Oct 2013

Correspondence between Manoj Das and Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya in June 1994 (1)

[Of late Manoj Das is very much in the public domain writing long-winded letters full of platitudes, without changing a wee bit his crassly subservient attitude towards the Ashram Trustees. But in June 1994 he was a different man and he had dared to challenge Pranab Kumar Bhattacharya, the head of the Ashram Physical Education Department. The issue on which he mainly differed with “Dada” was the expulsion of a child, who had been admitted into the Ashram School against the rules of the Physical Education Dept. I will not go into the merits of the rule itself, but I will draw the reader’s attention to the fact that Manoj Das had the guts to challenge in writing the unfairness of the rule in general and its wrong application in this particular case. Dada dismissed Manoj Das’s letter to him as “simply rubbish” and told him to mind his own business. This eventually led to the resignation of Manoj Das from the Board of Ashram Trustees. Perhaps it is because of this shock and the bitter pill of defeat he had to swallow that Manoj Das now faithfully toes the line of the Ashram Trustees and writes miles of foolscap pages in their favour! The correspondence between Manoj Das and PKB is long and will be published in at least two instalments. ― Bireshwar]

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12 Oct 2013

New enquiry officer to probe Aurobindo Ashram case (The Hindu, 10 October 2013) – Bireshwar Choudhury

Justice T.L. Viswanatha Iyer, a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, will be the enquiry officer (EO) in the place of Justice P.R. Raman, to look into allegations of sexual harassment of women and children in the Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Puducherry.

By consent, in an order on August 30, Justice K.K. Sasidharan appointed Mr. Justice Raman, also a former Judge of the Kerala High Court, to probe the allegations. Pursuant to the order, Mr. Justice Raman conducted a preliminary enquiry. The next enquiry is scheduled from October 23 to 26.

The EO appeared to have received a representation from 165 persons from Odisha, stated to be ashram devotees, and who had some information regarding the issues under consideration. The original understanding was that the enquiry would be confined to complaints from the inmates of the ashram and the local MLA, and as such, it would take at least three months. The EO was of the view that it would take a minimum six months to complete the process. He, therefore, expressed his difficulty to continue as he had to come from Kochi frequently. He requested that he be relieved from the engagement.

Mr. Justice Sasidharan ordered that the enquiry would be in relation to the complaints received by the District Collector.

The present and former inmates of the ashram were at liberty to approach the EO, if they were aggrieved. It was open to the EO to take a decision with regard to participation of third parties, provided they satisfied that they were inmates of the ashram at a particular point of time. The EO should conclude the enquiry as early as possible and file a report before the High Court preferably by December 31. The matter has been posted for January 2, 2014.

Comment: Retired High Court Judge P.R. Raman, who was the previous Enquiry Officer, had called for the depositions of not only the inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram but of all other disciples and devotees of Sri Aurobindo staying in or outside Pondicherry. The enquiry was to be conducted in several stages and different notifications were to be issued to address the different categories of devotees and disciples of Sri Aurobindo. So how can the enquiry be limited to only the inmates of Sri Aurobindo Ashram?

The preamble of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust Deed states that “Sri Aurobindo Ashram is the home of persons who are the followers and disciples of Sri Aurobindo having faith in his philosophy and yoga.” That the beneficiaries of the Trust are the “disciples, devotees and inmates” is mentioned no less than half a dozen times in the Trust Deed.  This was sufficiently clarified in the last and only meeting of 27th September, 2013 presided by P.R. Raman when the question of a letter from Orissa signed by 165 devotees had come up. The scope of the enquiry had been even written into the minutes of the meeting by the honourable retired High Court Judge. How can the scope of the enquiry be changed now to exclude the non-inmates?  

The information provided by the Hindu news reporter seems to be biased and incorrect because it sends the wrong information to the public and paves the way for a quick and sham probe, which is what the Ashram Trustees want to get away with. A large number of devotees and disciples apart from the inmates fully maintained by the Ashram Trust are actually quite eager to depose in front of the Commission in order to set things right in Sri Aurobindo Ashram.

Below is a scan of a true copy of the minutes of P.R. Raman’s first meeting at Ananda Inn on the 27th of September 2013.
Bireshwar Choudhury
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6 Oct 2013

Reply to “A Last Appeal” of Prof Manoj Das ― by Sricharan Singh

Professor Manoj Das (nicknamed Dr. Faustus or Byakta Manoj) wrote on 22 April, 2013 “A Suggestion for Introspection” in reply to Sricharan Singh’s “Professor Manoj Das has Sold his Soul to the Devil”.  At the end of his reply, he said, “Dear Editor, if I have written this much, it is only with the hope that some of your readers might be expecting some clarifications on statements from me. I would not like to descend into the exercise again.” But immediately on 10 May, 2013, unable to restrain himself any longer, he wrote another letter under the title “A Last Appeal”. In this appeal, instead of replying to the points raised against him, he vomited profusely his anger in the form of abuses and curses on those who had dared to question him.
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