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The sting that stung back – Part 4

June 13, 2012

Earlier episodes:

Part 1: Introduction

Part 2: Preamble

Part 3: The first encounter

A fortuitous revelation:-

We reproduce below the copy of SB’s revealing  e-mail (with highlights added by us):

………………………………………………………………………………………………………….

From: “SB” <“sb”@auromail.net>
To: <Rajdeep.Sardesai@tv18online.com>
Cc: <Sagarika.Ghose@tv18online.com>
Subject: Sri Aurobindo Ashram, Pondicherry
Date: Thu, 14 Feb 2008 07:18:13 -0800

14.02.2008

To:

Shri Rajdeep Sardesai,
Chief executive,

CNN-IBN

Dear Shri Rajdeep Sardesai-ji,

I am writing to you on behalf of Sri Aurobindo Ashram,Pondicherry, of which I am a member. If you remember, I had occasion to meet you and Sagarika-ji in the middle of last year when I accidentally saw you and recognized you at the Ashram. Subsequently I also sent information to Sagarika-ji regarding the family tree of Sri Aurobindo since she shares her surname with him. This chance encounter and brief interaction emboldens me to write directly to you regarding certain events involving CNN-IBN in which I have unwittingly played a part.

In July 2007, a Mr. Sashi Mukherjee, unknown to me, asked me to be of assistance to him as he was claiming to be acting on behalf of a real estate firm based in Delhi wanting to set up a resort here in Pondicherry. I clearly conveyed to him that I had no particular expertise in this matter or any direct interest. Though Mr Sashi Mukherjee went on insisting that in this venture Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust would be getting a share of the profits, I conveyed to him that I have only a general feeling of goodwill for anyone who has respect for the Ashram, and in such matters I have no role to play. Thereafter Mr. Sashi Mukherjee requested me to introduce him to the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust so that it may help him carry forward his plans. I told him clearly that the trustees are as such accessible to anyone who may wish to meet them and therefore he was certainly free to do so, but it would not help him for his projects in any way, since the Ashram is definitely not connected with real estate or resort-setting activities. I came to know later on that he had met at least two trustees of the Ashram a few times and, as I had informed him, both the trustees were categorical that the Ashram is not involved in such activities.

However one evening during his visit, he tried to give Rs 5000 to the Managing Trustee of the Ashram, letting it remain ambiguous whether this money was an offering to the Ashram or whether this money was meant to be for the Managing Trustee’s personal use. When the Managing Trustee refused to accept any money unless if it be a voluntary offering to the Ashram and unless he was given the name and address of the donor, Mr. Sashi Mukherjee left behind his visiting card as also a handwritten address. This money was accounted for in the books of Account of the Ashram the very next working day. The official receipt of the donation was dispatched twice to the office as well as the residential address indicated by Mr Sashi Mukherjee but both the times the letter was returned, as both the addresses were fictitious.

A few days later, I saw your channel’s Mr. Shashikumar on television and, to my astonishment, recognised him as Mr. Sashi Mukherjee. Subsequently, a communication was received by me from Mr. Shashikumar explaining that he was investigating some allegations against the Ashram and would be sending a questionnaire for us to answer. To us, his whole approach seemed unfair, motivated and dubious. It left a bad taste and this impression was reinforced when the questionnaire was received and it was found that it had nothing to do with any declared purpose for which Mr. Shashikumar had met the trustees under his alias. To this day we have not been able to fathom as to why this whole exercise was undertaken and what was the conclusion drawn from it.

In any event, a representative of the Ashram, Mr Matri Prasad, went to Delhi in mid-September 2007. He met Mr. Shashikumar in the presence of Mr. Nair and answered questions for over 4 hours. Mr Matri Prasad returned with the impression that the CNN-IBN team was more than adequately satisfied with the answers he had provided.

In fact, some of the questions asked did not even conform to a consistent point of view. For example, one was how someone alleged to have been unfit to remain in the Ashram could still continue to be an inmate of the Ashram, while another accused the Ashram of having asked some individuals to withdraw from the community! It was also explained and shown with documentary evidence that some individuals are repeatedly filing court cases against the Ashram, even on those issues on which the courts have already definitely pronounced themselves several times in favour of the Ashram. Such cases are bound to get dismissed in due course but given the nature and structure of the legal procedure, it can only be after the normal process is fully gone through and which necessarily takes time. On CNN-IBN’s request, the Ashram submitted written replies, sometimes running into over a dozen pages, for every question asked. In order to remove any possible doubts or apprehensions, the answers we submitted were also supported by annexures consisting of copies of (mainly legal) documents containing in all about 2500 pages. We believe that we have made it amply clear that Ashram has nothing to hide or suppress. In fact it was also made clear that in case there are further questions, we shall answer those questions too.

We did not hear anything after mid-October 2007, when the written answers were sent, and naturally thought that we have replied adequately.

However about a week ago, I got a phone call from one Ms. Kavitta claiming to be a colleague of Mr. Shashikumar. She said that the answers were fine but that someone should repeat them on camera.

As you are aware, Shri Rajdeep Sardesai-ji, we are a spiritual organization concerned with an effort to create a different kind of environment than what is usually found everywhere, in pursuit of a quiet self-culture. As such it is not too healthy for us to be either self-advertising or self-projecting in any way whatsoever. It just does not suit our way of life. We have made it very clear that we have nothing to hide and even if there are additional questions, we will have no hesitation in providing answers. However, to be in the glare of the camera in order to justify ourselves does not appeal to us and we would be grateful if you could spare us the same.

I trust you are also conscious of public interest, and would do nothing which will merely provide grist to the gossip mill by sensationalized misinformation.

Should you wish, CNN-IBN may use the answers already provided. We just request you to ensure that whatever may be said about the Ashram is truthful, adequately fair and unbiased. We would be glad if nothing is done simply for the sake of provoking an unhealthy sensationalism.

As such we do not regret the quiet anonymity with which our life here is blessed. We leave everything to you and your considered judgment.

With warm regards,
SB
Sri Aurobindo Ashram PO
Pondicherry 605 002
India

…………………………………………………………………………………………………………..

We are also including copies of the documents referred to in the above e-mail:

Copy of handwritten address: Handwritten Address

Copy of donation receipt: Receipt

Copy of  1st Receipt Letter: 1st Receipt Letter

Copy of 1st Receipt Returned envelope:  1st Receipt Returned Envelope

Copy of 2nd Receipt Letter: 2nd Receipt Letter

Copy of 2nd Receipt Returned envelope: 2nd Receipt Returned Envelope

(To be continued…)

-Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram –

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