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Scabs Beneath the Serenity

August 10, 2013

A few days ago, Imran Khan, reporter of the TEHELKA magazine and online news portal, wrote a story on the Sri Aurobindo Ashram titled ‘Scabs Beneath the Serenity, Scandal in the Ashram.

To his credit, Imran Khan did get a few things right. For instance:

Is there Serenity in the Ashram? Yes, plenty of it.

Are there scabs in the Ashram? Yes, unfortunately scabs like Raman Reddy, Sraddhalu Ranade, R.Y. Deshpande, the Prasad sisters, Dr. Gayatri Satapathy, Kamal Dora,  SM Annapurna and a few of their comrades are indeed present and have succeeded to take root even in an environment such as the Ashram which they have begun to contaminate with their filth as it would seem indispensable for their survival.

But beyond these general facts, Imran Khan who stated that TEHELKA is in possession of the scandalous testimonies submitted by the 50-odd Ashram inmates to the Puducherry District Collector, has preferred to ignore heaps of other well-researched, clearly presented, significant documents containing information that would have made him think at least twice before submitting his utterly biased and dubious report on the Ashram.

We are in possession of a copy of the list of documents containing detailed information that Imran Khan had also received from the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, but which he deliberately chose to ignore in his article. This list and information is reproduced here. Why  was this important information, that was given to him directly by the Ashram ignored by Imran Khan and TEHELKA? Is it just because TEHELKA means ‘SENSATION’ and that the truth would have killed all sensationalism?

There is sufficient information to demonstrate that Imran Khan’s article in the TEHELKA is at best an attempt to create the sensation that would satisfy the same group of readers that thrive on the CHOLA-TLOSA website. We therefore propose to present some of the omissions, inaccuracies and contradictions that are contained in Imran Khan’s article in a series of posts on this website.

We begin here with the case of the Prasad sisters who, according to Imran Khan, claim to have been sexually assaulted, beaten up and harassed for which they are seeking legal aid.

The Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust provided the following detailed information that Imran Khan chose to ignore:

Case A – Complaints by and against Jayashree Prasad, Arunashree Prasad, Rajyashree Prasad, Nivedita Prasad, and Hemlata Prasad:

These are 5 blood sisters who had been admitted in various years as inmates of the Ashram. In the year 2001 Ashram was forced to take disciplinary measures against Hemlata Prasad. She challenged the removal of her name from the list of members of the Ashram and to cut the story short, finally the High Court itself appointed a retired District Judge as enquiry officer. The enquiry officer appointed by the High Court conducted a full-fledged enquiry and found Hemlata Prasad guilty of misconduct. The Report of the enquiry officer appointed by the High Court is attached as Annexure-Query3-A1. Kindly refer to the conclusion of the Enquiry officer in Para 37 on Pages 21-22 of the Report which states inter alia, “I hold that the trustees have got all the powers to expel an inmate for misconduct. I also hold that the allegations against D.W.1 (Hemlata Prasad) is quite serious, and if such misconduct is ignored and no action is taken that would be a bad precedent and it would jeopardise the noble principles on which the Ashram is established and it would definitely encourage indiscipline.” Hemlata Prasad has challenged in the Munsif Court at Pondicherry, the Report of the enquiry officer appointed by the High Court. It may be pertinent to note that Hemlata Prasad was represented in this suit by her advocate Mr. Cyril Mathias Vincent, who is currently the advocate for the Collector and the Deputy Collector as well.

While this challenge was in progress, all the 5 sisters complained to the National Commission for Women that they were facing sexual harassment in the Ashram. A copy of the complaint was never given to the Ashram. However after an elaborate enquiry, the National Commission for Women concluded that the complaints were false and that there was a malicious planning in the lodging of the complaint. The report of the National Commission for Women was never given to us but the conclusions drawn by the National Commission for Women were subject matter of a Press Conference by the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women. Please find attached as Annexure-Query3-A2 the relevant Press Report, wherein the Chairperson of the National Commission for Women had concluded that “There appears to be malicious planning behind the complaints…”

Independently, the 5 sisters complained to the trustees of Sri Aurobindo Ashram Trust that they were facing sexual harassment at the place of their residence from other inmates of the Ashram. At the same time, many other inmates of the Ashram also complained that the 5 sisters were becoming a nuisance as they were continuously harassing them. In order to find out the veracity of the various complaints and counter-complaints, Sri Aurobindo Ashram appointed Mr. A V Nagarajan, a retired Deputy Secretary to the Govt. of Pondicherry, who is also a member of the Lok Adalat, to go comprehensively into all the complaints and counter-complaints so that the Ashram may take a decision in a fair manner. The 5 sisters after making the complaints refused to participate in the enquiry even after several opportunities were provided to them. Please find enclosed as Annexure-Query3-A3 the report submitted by Mr. A V Nagarajan, a retired Deputy Secretary to the Govt. of Pondicherry, who is also a member of Lok Adalat. The Report clearly established that the complaints by Jayashree Prasad, Arunashree Prasad, Rajyashree Prasad, Nivedita Prasad and Hemlata Prasad were false. On the other hand, the report concluded that the complaints by other inmates, both men and women, were genuine and that they were facing harassment by these 5 sisters.

One of the sisters, Arunashree Prasad, gave a complaint to the police about 6 young men of the Ashram. This was the subject matter of STR No. 7919 of 2004 in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate II at Pondicherry. The magistrate dismissed the complaint on 10.03.2005 and discharged the accused.

Hemlata Prasad had also filed a private complaint for defamation against the trustees and some other members of the Ashram in the Court of the Judicial Magistrate I in Pondicherry, which was numbered as STR No. 864 of 2001. The Judicial Magistrate I at Pondicherry after a full trial dismissed that complaint on 23.11.2004 wherein he noted in Para 19 on Page 13 of the Order that the complainant Hemlata Prasad was not speaking the truth even while she was under oath. He also observed in the same para that even her witness was not speaking the truth. Kindly find enclosed the above Order as Annexure-Query3-A4. It may be pertinent to note that Hemlata Prasad was represented in this complaint by her advocate Mr. Cyril Mathias Vincent, who is currently the advocate for the Collector and the Deputy Collector also.

Acting on the Report submitted by A V Nagarajan, the Ashram, which is duty-bound to protect other inmates also from being victims of false complaints, informed the 5 sisters that they cannot remain as inmates of the Ashram. The five sisters have challenged this decision of the Ashram in OS 409 of 2005 on the file of the Principal District Munsif at Pondicherry. They are represented in this suit by their advocate Mr. Cyril Mathias Vincent, who is currently the advocate for the Collector and the Deputy Collector also.

The 5 sisters also complained about the Ashram and its management and many of its inmates to the National Human Rights Commission. Please find enclosed as Annexure-Query3-A5 the Report of the Enquiry conducted by the National Human Rights Commission. We invite your attention to Paras 70-71 on Pages 25-26, and Paras 73-74 on Page 27, and the conclusions drawn on Para 81 and 82, and the findings in Para 83 on Pages 29-30 of the Report, which are self-explanatory.

Finally in a Revision arising out of an Interim Order in the Suit filed by the 5 sisters, the High Court of Madras directed them to vacate the Ashram and stay outside, and stated that during the pendency of the trial the Ashram would bear the cost of their remaining outside. Even while complaining that they were being subjected to sexual harassment in the Ashram, the 5 sisters refused to avail of this opportunity offered to them and defiantly continued to lodge themselves in Sri Aurobindo Ashram. In fact they have boldly asserted that the order of the High Court is illegal. Please find enclosed this letter dated 28.07.2010 enclosed as Annexure-Query3-A6.

The Ashram had to explain to the Police authorities as to what the reality was, since the five sisters continued to give false complaints to the Police. Please find enclosed as Annexure-Query3-A7 the letter written by Sri Aurobindo Ashram to the Deputy Inspector General of Police, Pondicherry.

In fact this is not the only time when the 5 sisters have given false complaints to the Police against inmates of the Ashram. Please find enclosed as Annexure-Query3-A8 and Annexure-Query3-A9 samples of the false complaints, of which the inmates of the Ashram have been victims. This is just to state that Sri Aurobindo Ashram is duty-bound to protect its inmates from perverse and false complaints by vested interests.

As per the counter filed by the Collector and the Deputy Collector, the five sisters are now complainants before the Collector reiterating the same complaints which have been adjudicated time and again by competent authorities including the courts.

What else can one expect from such shameless people who not only indulge in such perverse and malicious actions designed to create trouble, and even claim that the “ashram belongs to inmates” like them. It is true to that the Ashram does not belong to the trustees, but it certainly does not belong to the Prasad sisters or any other inmate of the Ashram. If the Prasad sisters don’t even know or realize that this Ashram belongs to Sri Aurobindo and the Mother, that they have voluntarily joined the Ashram to serve Sri Aurobindo, the Mother and their Ashram, that they are not in the Ashram to take but to give, they do not belong to this Ashram.

People like the Prasad sisters are the scabs that Imran Khan has found, that are not there to serve the institution and its founders anymore but to exploit it instead. And when their selfish exploitation is prevented and exposed their only goal becomes to irritate, spread the disease and disturb the serenity that all others would like to enjoy.

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– Well-wishers of Sri Aurobindo Ashram – 

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4 Comments
  1. Selva permalink

    Tehelka’s Imran Khan didn’t even verify the claim published in his article that Auroville used to be under the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, it would have taken him less than a minute to find out that this was false: Even Wikipedia shows under Auroville: “Auroville was founded as a project of the Sri Aurobindo Society on Wednesday 28 February 1968 by Mirra Alfassa, “The Mother””.

    I tried to publish a comment about that below the online article, but it was censored repeatedly by Tehelka.
    I used to have a high opinion of Tehelka…..

  2. Satheesh S. permalink

    Dear Editors of Well-wishers blog,

    I had posted the comment here below on the Tehelka website, but after days of waiting, I am shocked to find that Tehelka is suppressing my comment. First Tehelka has forgotten how conduct investigative journalism. Now they are also suppressing Freedom of Expression. I hope that you will please post my comment.

    Thks, Satheesh S.

    Comment posted on Tehelka to Mr. Imran Khan:

    Dear Mr. Imran Khan,

    You may be keen to spoil the reputation of the “world-renowned Sri Aurobindo Ashram” but I am not so sure if the Chief Editor of Tehelka will be pleased to find out that you are spoiling the reputation of Tehelka with your kind of journalism. Isn’t Tehelka supposed to be renowned for its “investigative journalism”? I thought it was until I read your article about the Sri Aurobindo Ashram, which shows that your investigations go only as deep as the sensationalism that it can create. Is Tehelka undergoing an identity crisis?

    As you certainly seek sensationalism let me give you a hint that could lead you to an investigation that is more interesting and “sexy” than the one that you have reported.

    You might want to investigate the following:

    – Whether it is permissible for an ashram inmate to have sex?

    – Why did the Ashram take disciplinary action against some female inmates?

    – Could it be that a female inmate had sex while she was a voluntary, inmate of the Ashram? This is hard to prove because the Ashram trustees do not keep CCTV cameras in the rooms of every Ashram inmate to snoop into the private lives of inmates. If you think that’s how a spiritual institution should run, so that sex scandals are voided in the future thanks to articles like yours, please say so.

    – Could it be that a careless, undisciplined female inmate got pregnant as a result of having sex? If this happened, does Tehelka believe that it is the result of an immaculate conception, against which no disciplinary action is required, if sex is not allowed in the Ashram?

    – Could it be that a female inmate might have a sister who was working in one of the Ashram nursing homes, and could have tried to destroy evidence of her sister’s pregnancy?

    – Could it be that if the concerned female inmates are found to be having sex without any doubts due to the state of pregnancy of the female inmate, have a record of blatant lying and of destroying evidence, that as an act of vendetta against the Ashram trustees they would frame false allegations against them?

    – Could it be that all the courts and investigative commissions that have examined such cases have got it wrong all along whereas Tehelka, without knowing or presenting any substantial details, except for reporting wild allegations, got it right?

    At the Sri Aurobindo Ashram they seem to be much more informed than those at Tehelka. But are you Imran Khan, or is Tehelka really interested in the truth?

    Satheesh S.

  3. daksha permalink

    The point about auroville pointed out by selva is very right and surprised that tehelka has not posted it. in all fairness it should be allowed, as the data is in public domain.
    this and the points clarified by matriprasad on behalf of trust are the right way to respond to any article. one has to point out how false the article is by responding to it point by point, para by para, nothing more or less, this makes an impact on the misinformation printed. one responds to what the allegations are, not everything around it and beyond it.
    to go on and on about other issues, such as for this article on: sex, self sufficiency, yoga, come and meet me to hear my point of view, endless witty remarks and points ,etc, etc, on this site and tehelka by several people is not the right response. this way the issues can become enlarged and never ending. so the author has the choice to ignore all of them, valid and invalid, it helps the author.
    this happens everytime an article against the saa/avl. etc. is published, one reads clarifications and justifications about everything except the points raised. this has been the fact for decades.

    this is why the issue of heehs book etc. has gone out of control and encompasses everyone and his traits, history, geography and his dogs and cats and everything else, except the core issue.

    both sides write witty and abusive articles and it goes on and on.

    ” HARI ANANT HARI KATHA ANANTA”

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