13 Sep 2015

BJP President Amit Shah’s Visit to Sri Aurobindo Ashram – by Bireshwar Choudhury

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust, while pretending to be above politics, has taken full political mileage from the recent visit of the BJP President Amit Shah to the Ashram on 25 August, 2015. A casual bystander reported to us on how the Trustees accompanied by their Secretary Matriprasad Satyamurthy (the Ashram’s best sweet-talker and accomplished sycophant) went out of their way to please Mr. Shah, fawning over him every second of the thirty-five minutes flat he spent in the Ashram main building. Mr Shah bowed down at the Samadhi and felt the serene atmosphere of the Master’s room, which was the main purpose of his visit. But why did the Trustees rush him (of all the places) to the Ashram Cold Storage where the original manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother are kept?  Obviously to impress upon Mr. Shah that the Westerners residing in the Ashram (which naturally includes the infamous Peter Heehs) are doing the invaluable service of “scientifically” preserving the manuscripts of Sri Aurobindo and the Mother. This has a couple of political implications. One – that such a complex scientific operation (!) of maintaining a steady temperature with a constant relative humidity in the Cold Storage is not possible for any Indian to execute. (I wonder what is so scientific about this clerical drudgery which every whole sale fruit vendor is forced to go through if he does not want to run out of business!) Two – that a similar highly scientific exercise produced the Lives of Sri Aurobindo by Peter Heehs!!! So these Westerners (who have to be confounded with Peter Heehs whether they like it or not) are after all doing an excellent job with the full backing of the Trustees for the sake of BHARAT MATA, even if they do not believe in Her or cannot pronounce Her name in the proper way.  

But then why did not the Trustees elevate Peter Heehs to the status of the resident Guru of the Ashram with all his scientific expertise and objective knowledge? Why did they not announce in the national newspapers that the best book on Sri Aurobindo until now has been written by Peter Heehs, instead of playing the duplicitous game of praising him in the Court while condemning him in private letters and internal circulars of the Ashram? To make matters worse, they remained neutral and non-committal in their public stance and supported him for the sake of freedom of speech, while at the same time taking the most stringent action on those Ashramites who dared to criticise him and his book! So, on the whole, there is no rational position on this issue that the Trustees have held with dignity and self-respect. Opportunism and politics have dictated their actions and they have veered from the extreme irreligious Left to the extreme religious Right. When the Congress was in power, they knocked at the doors of Jairam Ramesh, and since the BJP has come to power in mid 2014, they have been desperately wooing RSS think-tanks.  

It is in this backdrop that Amit Shah’s visit to the Cold Storage has to be viewed and understood. The fact that he appreciated the manner in which the manuscripts have been kept is no doubt a feather in the cap for the Ashram Trust, but the scope of his appreciation should not be stretched to include the entire administration of the Ashram by the present Trustees. It should be noted that the Central Govt. of India is a party in a pending Writ Petition filed by three senior ladies of the Ashram in the Supreme Court of India against the Ashram Trust in August 2014, and the Ministry of Home Affairs has already filed an affidavit in favour of a high level enquiry into the alleged corruption and mismanagement of the Ashram Trust. So the sword of Damocles hangs on the heads of the Trustees and they are too well aware of the gravity of the matter, despite the false bravado they put up in front of gullible Ashramites and the general public. Pretence has been the hallmark of the present batch of Trustees and there has always been an unbridgeable gap between what they practise and what they preach! As for a seasoned politician like Amit Shah, do the Ashram Trustees think that he can be fooled by a few bouquets and sweet talk, and the sight of a well-maintained Cold Storage vault? He is too smart for that – he would have certainly seen through the game that the Trustees played with him over his Cold Storage visit with such gushing enthusiasm!  

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