29 Nov 2013

Response to Auroville Today Report on Ashram Affairs (1) ― Sridharan

The Auroville Today report on Ashram affairs in the issue of October, 2013 is a “thoroughly researched” (!) presentation of facts by a lawyer who has been given the job of defending the Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust. He has therefore necessarily presented only one side of the story and has left out all the events and documents that are not compatible with his whitewashed picture of the Ashram Trust. The foundation of his thesis is predetermined: the Trustees are angels fallen from the sky and those who are protesting against them are hostile forces attacking the Mother’s work. In that case, Auroville should also be considered as part of that falsehood because the Mother had originally given the task of building Auroville to Sri Aurobindo Society and not to those who rebelled against it and brought about a Govt. intervention! Navajat Poddar has indeed been so much demonised by Aurovillians that I would now like to believe that he was the Mother’s instrument! Why don’t the Aurovillians don’t even mention him as the man who first proposed Auroville to the Mother, who then used him as an instrument to execute it? It is high time that he should be given due credit for his role.

I will quote below some of the salient passages in the Auroville Today report and give my response.
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23 Nov 2013

A Comparison of Sexual Assaults – Bireshwar Choudhury

While the whole nation follows the discussion on the Tarun Tejpal sex scandal, have the Ashramites forgotten that far more serious incidents have happened at Sri Aurobindo Ashram? Or will they still pretend like Manoj Das Gupta (the Managing Trustee) that nothing untoward has ever happened in the Ashram? I quote below the statements of two victims of alleged sexual assault: (1) that of the young Tehelka lady reporter who accused the chief editor of Tehelka, Tarun Tejpal, of sexually assaulting her, which led to an unconditional apology by him and the decision to recuse himself for the next six months; and (2) that of a young Oriya lady who was molested by one Mukesh Shah in one of the guest houses of Sri Aurobindo Ashram. The emotionally shattered victim went weeping to the concerned authorities of the Ashram, but no action was taken on Mukesh Shah because he happened to be one of the key henchmen of the Trustees. Instead the lady was told by the Managing Trustee to either bear with or concede to the sexual solicitations of the Guest House manager or to go back to her native place, because this was the unalterable way of life at the Ashram!!! I suppose this is one of the finest examples of Manoj Das Gupta’s remarkable administration of the Ashram Trust!

The comparison between the two statements below is striking. In fact, the sexual offence of Mukesh Shah is far more serious than the alleged sexual misconduct of Tarun Tejpal.
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20 Nov 2013

RAJ TV Programme in Tamil titled “KOPPIUM” (17.09.2013) ― English Translation

The Disclaimer at the beginning states that their intention is not to smear anyone but to inform and awaken people regarding emergent issues.

The Compere opens the video mentioning that for reforms in the life of society, great people and Gyanis make efforts and establish institutions to enable people to live in accordance with their ideas and ideals. After the lifetime of such savants, it is however doubtful whether those who manage the institutions in subsequent periods have the same sense of dedication to the high ideals or function with the noble idea of service to others.

One such institution which is presented in  the present episode  is  the world renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram at Pondicherry (Puducherry) wherein there are allegations of misdeeds by the Ashram Trustees, including  horror stories  of sex torture meted out to  female inmates by addicts and the institution  being under the control of a secret mafia.

Sri Aurobindo (whose original name was Aurobindo Ackroyd Ghose) was a great freedom fighter and veritably can be called the Maharishi for the Freedom struggle of the country. He turned to spirituality and said that true freedom is not merely on the political front but in spirituality. The Ashram, which came into existence during his lifetime, became the centre for spreading his message of spiritual ideas to people and to serve the purpose of progress in their spiritual life.

It is a fact that the Ashram in Pondicherry has been in existence for many years now and people from near and far (from within the country and from other countries) have come and settled here after surrendering all their property, wealth and riches to the Ashram. The followers of Sri Aurobindo have no caste differences, no differences on account of religion, no prejudices with regard to gender, no bias towards people hailing from different countries. In a sense, all are followers of Sri Aurobindo without any differentiation. Such a prestigious institution which is renowned all over the world is presently being mentioned as a place where there is sexual harassment of inmates, violation of human rights, embezzlement of financial resources, and alienation of real estate properties of the Ashram by the henchmen and their principals who manage the affairs of the Ashram.
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15 Nov 2013

RAJ TV Video ― Sex Scandals @ Aurobindo Ashram (Koppiyam, 17 September, 2013)

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8 Nov 2013

The Bat Policy – by Banamali Mishra

I am reminded of a story that I had heard in my childhood. As a child I enjoyed the story and found it very funny. As I grew up and acquired a little knowledge of biology, this story became interesting to me in a different light. Now with advancing years I sometimes look back and think how many human beings, though evolved, are still like bats in many respects.

Let me not keep you in suspense. I will recount the story now.  Many millenniums ago, long before human beings came into existence, prehistoric birds, animals and dinosaurs ruled the earth with their might. There were constant fights among them to gain supremacy. It was clear that animals were the kings on land and birds had unchallenged supremacy in air. Once there was a big fight. The huge strong birds carried large stones up in the air and dropped them on the animals, killing many of them. They swooped down on the small animals and carried them away. It was clear that the birds were winning the battle.

The bat had not joined the power struggle. It was a fence-sitter. It was unable to decide whether it was a bird or an animal. Seeing the obvious victory of the birds, it joined the side of the birds and fought against the animals. The birds asked him, “Why did you join us?’’ It replied, “Because I am a bird and I fly. The animals don’t fly.’’
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1 Nov 2013

Sridharan Replies to Arpit Agarwal of SAICE forum

I have picked out this particular passage of Arpit Agarwal in a never-ending competition in insulting Alok Pandey that took place on the SAICE forum, because there is in it a modicum of decency, and the argument (whatever be its worth) is well stated. This is truly exceptional in a forum which is usually busy with mud-slinging at the lowest level of verbal exchange. I wonder how Arpit Agarwal, who happens to be the site’s moderator, bears with all the sound and fury that rages therein. I can only compare his attitude with that of parents who leave their five year old wards in a closed room and let them fight, shout, laugh and weep to their hearts’ content while ensuring that they don’t beat each other black and blue by occasionally peeping into  the room and exercising a word of caution. Arpit Agarwal has done the same; he has peeped in at the right time when things were going out of control in the forum and raised a point which is very pertinent, though I certainly will not agree with it. The point that he has made is with regard to the reason (or rather lack of reason) for not going against the Trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram even if they are in the wrong. I quote passages from his letter dated 21.10.2013 to Ashit Kumar Mitra (of Kasser Trust, or is it "Cusser" Trust?) regarding Alok Pandey; these are followed by my answers:
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