2 Sept 2017

Manoj Das Gupta Interrogated by the Police ─ Anirjeet

On the 25th of August 2017 the Pondicherry Police whisked off Manoj Das Gupta in a Police jeep around 7 a.m. from the Ashram Dining Room, where he had gone to collect his breakfast. The Police took him to the station for questioning with regard to the rape of a minor girl by a minor boy committed in the premises of the Ashram School on 21 July, 2017. Manoj Das Gupta happens to be the Managing Trustee of Sri Aurobindo Ashram and the Registrar of the Ashram School, which is a powerful and influential position to hold in Pondicherry, so it is extremely surprising that the Police dared to treat him like a common citizen. He was even made to undergo the utter humiliation of waiting in the Police Station for two hours and told to come the next day for interrogation. The next day he was accompanied by Dr. Dilip Datta (Trustee and head of the Ashram Medical Services) and Matriprasad Satyamurthy (Secretary of the Ashram Trust) to the Police station. The same week writer Manoj Das (Sahitya Academy award winner and recipient of Padma Shri) was summoned to Chennai and interrogated by the Intelligence Bureau. All of a sudden the long delayed karmic hand has caught up with the actions of this nefarious group of the Ashram and the fortress of invincibility they had built up in the public domain over the last twenty years seemed to fall like a house of cards.

But the fact that there was hardly any report of the juvenile rape incident in the English and Tamil newspapers shows the strong grip the Ashram Trustees have over the media. Only the Hindu came up with a much diluted report on the 28th of August without mentioning any names whatsoever, saying that the medical report of the victim was tampered with in a private clinic, and the authorities of the “international school” had failed to report the matter to the Police. One wonders how even this much news could trickle to the surface, but the wonder of wonders is how an Ashram matter could at all come under the Police scanner and an FIR filed against him! This indeed heralds a new era of justice for Pondicherry and troubled times lie ahead for the Ashram Trustees who until now have always got away with similar incidents in the past.   

As luck would have it, the double whammy of the juvenile rape incident and the older students of the Ashram School getting caught with drugs around the same time, has been the immediate cause of putting the Ashram Trustees in the dock. When the minor boy (of the rape incident) was told to quit the Ashram School by the Registrar, he protested against the discriminatory punishment meted out to him as against Dr. Dilip Datta’s two grandsons who had been left scot free with a mere reprimand and a short sabbatical from sports activities. “You should also throw them out for taking drugs. Why only punish my son?” had argued the boy’s parents, to which the Ashram authorities responded by paying for the boy’s fees in the Acharya School, one of the premier educational institutions of Pondicherry. When the Police finally swung into action at the behest of the higher authorities of the Govt. and arrested the boy and his family, they seem to have spilled the beans with regard to both the incidents of rape and drugs, and put the Ashram Trustees into an extremely uncomfortable situation. For, on the one hand, how could the Registrar rusticate the grandsons of a fellow Trustee? On the other hand, how could he ignore the rape incident and not punish the boy who had committed it? In any case, the very fact of evicting the boy from the Ashram School and joining him in the Acharya School is itself an admission of the rape incident, and in that case the Registrar can now be held culpable for hiding a serious crime perpetrated in the School premises and not informing the Police about it.   

Meanwhile the Registrar has informed the teachers of the Ashram School not to mess up the situation further by telling the truth of the matter to the Police, which will soon come to inspect the School premises and question the School personnel. “Tell them that you don’t know anything about the rape incident. Even if you know, pretend not to know!” has been the strict instruction sent to the teachers from the Registrar’s office. What a sad day indeed for the Ashram School when such instructions have to be sent to do a collective cover-up operation! 

The moral of the story is: Why did the Trustees cover up the two incidents of crime in the Ashram School? It would have been so much easier to hand over these matters to the Police instead of playing with fire and getting themselves stuck in a quagmire by trying to suppress them! Why did they not simply call for a larger body of senior teachers and inmates of the Ashram and collectively decide on the punishment to be meted out to the culprits (regardless of whether they are the rich grandsons of a Trustee or a poor clerk’s wayward son) and decide upon the future course of action to avert such tragedies? This would have been a much more transparent and healthy way of arriving at collective solutions than making the entire Ashram administration a private negotiation of two or three highly inflated egos! 

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