7 Aug 2017

Two Shocking Incidents – Anirjeet

The following post, dated 6 August, 2017 on indiatoday.in with the title “SC rejects plea of woman ‘abused’ at Puducherry’s Aurobindo Ashram” is highly misleading, even going by the report that follows underneath. On 28 July 2017, Chief Justice Khehar dismissed the impleadment petition of Hemlata Prasad in the Writ Petition filed by Gayatri Satpathy & Others against the Ashram Trustees in August 2014 for a number of complaints, including sexual harassment of minors, death by medical negligence, shady land dealings and other financial irregularities. The Chief Justice however granted the liberty to Hemlata Prasad to “initiate proceedings if the applicant is so advised in her own right”.  In other words, the Chief Justice did not reject her plea of being abused but instructed her to file it separately on her own. So while the title gives the impression of the Ashram Trustees coming out clean in the eyes of the Supreme Court, the actual content of the story should hardly make them comfortable, especially when the Centre (MHA is a party to the Writ Petition) has “favoured an independent inquiry into the affairs of the Ashram”.

In the meanwhile two more shocking incidents have come to light in the Ashram, which should make the Ashram Trustees literally squirm in their seats and regret why they ever sat on them. Both the incidents will of course be quietly buried by them with ceremonious preaching and blaming the falling morals of modern times, instead of looking at their own lax administration and taking appropriate measures to stem the rot. These two incidents according to reliable sources (the whole Ashram knows about them though no one dares to speak) are: (1) the horrendous rape of a minor girl by a minor boy in the video room of the Sri Aurobindo Ashram School, and (2) the catching of a few students of the Higher Course of the Ashram School with drugs on the East Coast Road. The raped girl is ironically a relative of Manoj Das, the writer, whose eminence was starkly displayed a few years ago in the Seashore Chit Fund Scam in Odissa. The students allegedly caught with drugs are none other than the third generation of Dr. Dilip Datta himself, the second most powerful Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram after Manoj Das Gupta, the Managing Trustee. In this context the pompous letter of Manoj Das (the writer) to The Organiser on 9 September 2014 is worth quoting:  

I assert that during my half-century in the Ashram I have never come across a single instance of violation of human rights and the other sins your author has attributed to the Ashram. I assure you I keep my eyes open and had there been any such instance, I would have surely acknowledged it to you.

How remarkably true and sincere the writer is, so true to his ideals that he does not even see the realities on the ground! But I suppose that is politics – you always announce what should be and what is good for the world and the universe and even the Milky Way, but never take action in your own vicinity where you have vested interest. Anyway, that is one more bad report on the Ashram which should be made public, and even if they are merely allegations, the Ashram authorities should promptly come out with the truth of the matter. But then be sure that they will be far more concerned to suppress all information regarding the two incidents than going to the root of the problem and setting things right in the institution that has been bequeathed to them by Sri Aurobindo and the Mother.

Admitting that such problems are difficult to solve and frequently occur in schools across India and in countries abroad, the one big disadvantage of the Ashramites is that they have to practise Yoga in Life without being Yogic (which is the present day scenario). The older generation was made of sterner stuff and everything worked out well because there was no huge disparity between the outer and inner life, and above all no pretence and hypocrisy of the kind that Manoj Das epitomises. So they took appropriate action whenever it was necessary, and accordingly inmates and students were either chucked out or tightened up with adequate disciplinary measures. I won’t say they were always successful, but it was certainly better than now when it has become more a matter of prestige and “upholding the name of the Ashram” at all cost. Not that the present authorities never take any disciplinary action, but it is only when one opposes them and their own prestige is at stake, or when the person is weak and unable to defend himself or herself. When the person is strong, then the authorities don’t move a finger or budge an inch, observe the whole issue with “infinite detachment” and leave things conveniently to the Mother’s Grace!

The case of Sujata Venkatesh, who a few months back rammed her cycle against Lata Jauhar, an elderly lady who came to the Ashram in the early forties, is a case in point. The fact that the assault or accident became a criminal case is not due to the Ashram authorities, but because the victim’s powerful family cracked the whip from Delhi. Otherwise, how do you explain the measured and stolid silence of the Ashram authorities with regard to her all these years, a lady who had occupied five rooms in the New Creation for herself (when the Ashram was facing a shortage of accommodation) and was literally rampaging about fearlessly breaking all the rules of Ashram life? This is the sad state of affairs in the Ashram now.

Coming back to the two incidents in the Ashram School, I am sure parents will be made to sign once again a statement addressed to the Governor of Pondicherry or the Prime Minister of India denying that no untoward incidents have ever happened to their children, and that their children live in heaven on earth, or earth in heaven (whichever you please). There will of course be no evidence to go by, if somebody does go to the Court asking for an enquiry, and everything will be once again hushed up, suppressed, forced under the carpet and buried five feet below the ground, and the squealing victims made to look like stupid loony complainants. But a day might come when the parents themselves realise that it would be better not to risk their wards to such a dangerous environment in the name of psychic growth and free progress, and that they would rather want to try their luck in regular schools where a spade is called a spade and appropriate disciplinary measures taken at the right time in order to protect their children from the hazards of modern life.  

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